Mother of murder victim in groundbreaking DNA case dies

The mother of the teenager murdered in the first case in South Carolina in which a DNA evidence was used to convict a defendant died on Wednesday.

Bonnie Faye Todd was 79.

Her daughter, Crystal Faye Todd, was murdered in Horry County in November 1991.

The lead investigator in the case believes Bonnie Todd never really recovered from her daughter's death.

"There's no question in my mind the loss of her daughter devastated her more so than any other family member I've ever dealt with," says former Horry County homicide detective Bill Knowles.

Knowles says Ken Register was a good friend of Crystal's and one of the last people police suspected in her murder.

But at the time of the investigation, Knowles had just graduated from the FBI academy and had heard about a new crimefighting tool: DNA.

Register was about the 50th person asked to submit his DNA to police.

He was a match.

"Once the information came in that he was, in fact, the guy, it was very shocking, both to me personally and to the investigative team," said Knowles.

Former Horry County solicitor Ralph Wilson says DNA was important in Register's trial, but according to jurors, not the deciding factor.

"They said, look, the DNA at that point was just so complicated that they just kind of set that aside and looked at the other evidence and based their guilt decision on that," said Wilson.

Register is serving a life sentence at Broad River Correctional Institution in Columbia.

Wilson says the fact the jury didn't see fit to give Register the death penalty was an open wound for Bonnie Faye Todd for the rest of her life.

Wilson remained friends with Bonnie Todd long after the trial was over.

"She would always bring me collard greens, or pecans, or grapes," he said.

Wilson says raising her daughter was Bonnie Faye Todd's whole life.

Now, finally, she's at peace, he believes.

"If she's going to heaven and I do believe she will, she'll see Crystal there and I think that will give her the peace that she is searching for."

Todd's funeral service will be Friday at 4 p.m. at the High Point Baptist Church in Conway.

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