GEORGETOWN, S.C. (WBTW) — A 47-year-old Murrells Inlet man was sentenced to 40 years in prison Thursday for killing his ex-girlfriend’s father and wounding her in April 2022, according to the 15th Circuit Solicitor’s Office.

James Charles Lewis pleaded guilty to murder and attempted murder for shooting and killing James Allen “Jimbo” Thomas, 76, and wounding his former girlfriend by shooting her twice, including once in the head, the solicitor’s office said. It happened at a home on Wachesaw Road where Lewis formerly lived with Thomas’ daughter.

James “Jimbo” Thomas / Photo provided by 15th Circuit Solicitor’s Office

Thomas, a Vietnam veteran from Ohio had come to Murrells Inlet to protect his daughter from Lewis, who had threatened her during an ongoing domestic dispute, the solicitor’s office said.

According to the solicitor’s office, Lewis was armed with a rifle when broke into the home in the middle of the night by shattering a sliding glass door. He encountered Thomas in the hallway, and Thomas tried to disarm him.

Lewis was shot in the process but was able to gain control of the weapon from Thomas and shoot him three times, killing him instantly, the solicitor’s office said. Lewis then went to his ex-girlfriend’s room and shot her.

The solicitor’s office said quick action by a passing motorist who called 911 and the responding officers from the Georgetown County Sheriff’s office likely saved the life of Thomas’ daughter.

She spoke during Lewis’ please hearing on Thursday, along with Thomas’ widow and daughters. About 40 people including friends and extended family submitted letters to the court about Thomas’ character and how his death and the injuries to his daughter impacted their lives. 

Thomas was remembered as a wonderful husband, father, grandfather, friend, and neighbor.  He volunteered and served his community including the VFW, Boy Scouts, and school events.

Lewis, who had no significant prior criminal record before the incident, also spoke during the hearing and apologized to the family.

“They only tried to love me,” he said.

Circuit Court Judge B. Alex Hyman sentenced Lewis to 40 years for murder and 30 years for attempted murder, the maximum sentences recommended for the charges, the solicitor’s office said. The sentences will run concurrently, meaning Lewis will serve 40 years. He will not be eligible for parole or early release.