Posted on January 6, 2010

‘They Beat Him to Death. He Just Didn’t Die’

Glenn Smith, Post and Courier (Charleston), January 3, 2010

Troy Knapp’s killing was 10 years in the making, a gradual death by inches and degrees.

His brutal beating at the hands of an angry mob sparked outrage and spurred marches a decade ago. But long after the headlines faded, Knapp soldiered on in a battered and broken body that no longer responded to his commands.

Bedridden, in chronic pain and saddled with seizures, Knapp hung on until Nov. 6, when his body finally gave out for good. At age 43, he became North Charleston’s 11th homicide of 2009, the victim of a slow-motion killing too old to carry the possibility of a murder charge.

Troy Knapp died in November, 10 years after a brutal mob beating left him severely injured.

Knapp died as a result of severe injuries he suffered in his October 1999 beating,

Charleston County Coroner Rae Wooten said. But there is nothing more police can do. South Carolina law won’t allow a murder prosecution in a case where the victim lives more than three years after his injuries were inflicted.

Six men were convicted of lynching in the attack on Knapp. Just two remain in prison, though they are expected to be released within the year.


Knapp, a former auto mechanic, was 34 when he and friend Gary Thornburg were attacked while riding their bicycles near Bexley Street and South Rhett Avenue. Thornburg escaped serious injury, but Knapp was beaten so badly he was in a coma for weeks.

“When I first saw him in the hospital, I said ‘They beat him to death. He just didn’t die,'” his aunt, Annie Minnick, said.

When Knapp finally awoke, he was mostly paralyzed, unable to walk or take his young son on the fishing trips they used to share. Doctors had to remove a portion of his brain and a section of skull, leaving him with a large depression in his head. He couldn’t remember much about the attack itself.

Police initially charged 16 suspects between the ages of 14 and 22. The case stoked racial tensions, as the suspects are black and the two victims white. But police have said robbery, not race, appeared to be the motive for the assault.


After hanging on for so long, death came suddenly. Knapp had a seizure on the night of Nov. 5. The next morning, his stepfather found him unresponsive and yelled for his sister to call EMS. It was too late. He was already gone.