Man Who Murdered Teen At Peach Stand Gets Life Behind Bars

YORK COUNTY, SC. —  A man who murdered a 19-year-old store clerk in South Carolina will spend the rest of his life in prison without parole. Christopher Mendez pled guilty to killing Karson Whitesell at the Peach Stand in January.

The family of Karson Whitesell, telling the court about a vibrant young woman and a church missionary.

Karson’s mother told the judge through tears on Tuesday, what life has been like for her since she buried her daughter.

“320 days where my life has been darker without her smile and laughter. 320 days where I cry more than I laugh,” says Karson’s mother Debbie Harrison.

Investigators say Mendez shot and killed Karson Whitesell on January 23rd while she worked inside the Peach Stand.  Detectives and witnesses say Mendez laid down his gun after shooting Karson and waited for police to arrive. He was taken into custody the night of the murder.

Mendez told detectives during an interview that Karson gave him a slight look when he walked into the Peach Stand that day. Security video shows him get a  .45-caliber gun out of his car, go back in the store and shoot Karson five times.

Sixteenth Judicial Circuit Solicitor Kevin Brackett says Mendez bought the gun about an hour before the murder.

In court, Mendez spoke directly to Karson’s family.

“I committed a horrible act of depriving someone of her life, and for that I am sorry,” says Mendez.

Mendez’s father said his son needed mental help. His public defender, Phil Smith, said Mendez had a history of mental health issues, and was commited to a mental institution for over a week in the summer of 2017. The defense said Mendez was given the wrong medication. Mendez says he was diagnosed with Bipolar Depression, his prescription has since been changed.

After an evaluation, Mendez was found mentally competent to enter a plea.

Brackett pointed out that while purchasing the gun, Mendez filled out a form required by law that asks if you have ever been, “adjudicated as mental defective, or have you ever been commited to a mental institution?” Brackett says Mendez check “no.”