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In Mauldin, South Carolina, 44-year-old single mom Debra Chisholm was known for being fun-loving and having a wide circle of friends. After her sister died, she helped raise her niece and nephew.
But on December 12, 2007, Chisholm’s nude body was found after a fire that began at her home around 10:30 p.m. was put out. She had died from multiple stab wounds and blunt force trauma, the coroner reported, according to wyff4.com. Who could have murdered her?
Investigators determined that the blaze had intentionally been set. Gasoline was used as an accelerant, and they also found scrape marks on the side of a tree at Chisholm’s home that were believed to have been made as the killer hastily drove away.
For 14 years, no arrests were made in the case. On a recent episode of “Cold Justice,” airing Saturdays at 8/7c on Oxygen, veteran prosecutor Kelly Siegler and investigator Steve Spingola go to Mauldin to work the case with local law enforcement.
After a huddle with Mauldin Police Department Det. Shawn Smith, Sgt. Robert Thacker, and Chief George Miller, three suspects emerge: Chisholm’s nephew and niece, Dwayne and Sakeena Taylor, and her married boyfriend, Dwayne Ishaaq.
The “Cold Justice” team learns there was bad blood between the victim and her nephew and to a lesser degree her niece, who believed their aunt withheld their Social Security payments. Chisholm’s daughter, Taineisha Bolden, confirms the family rift to investigators. And because of her nephew’s scrapes with the law and other issues, Chisholm “kicked him out of the house” about two months before her murder, according to a member of the Mauldin PD.
When the “Cold Justice” team interviews Chisholm’s friends and former boyfriends, consensus about her increasingly fractious relationship with Dwayne Taylor emerges. He had threatened his aunt and had plans to come by her house shortly before her murder, according to witnesses.
Investigators turn their attention to Ishaaq, whose alibi about his whereabouts on December 12, 2007 are corroborated by his wife as well as security cameras. Efforts to speak with Ishaaq are unsuccessful.
When investigators visit Sakeena at her home, she is reluctant to talk with them. “She came to the door and appeared to be polite,” says Spingola. “However, she definitely gave us the brush off.” “The team wonders if she may know more than she is willing to share” When investigators reach out to Sakeena a second time, she tells them to leave her alone.
Digital forensic expert Eric Devlin’s analysis of the suspects' cell phones are compelling but inconclusive. It reveals “a black hole,” Siegler says, around the murder window — 8:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. that night.
They also speak to the victim’s neighbors, who recall seeing a black truck the night of the crime. The vehicle made a telltale sound, like “a lawn sprinkler,” the witness says. None of the three suspects owned that black truck.
Mauldin PD investigators had noted that the victim’s nephew had had car trouble shortly before the murder. The “Cold Justice” team tracks down the garage that serviced his car. The shop owner recalls loaning him a vehicle — a black truck that made a distinctive sound. When Dwayne Taylor returned the truck, it had damage on the side and a cap missing from a gas can stowed in the bed.
The dent aligned with the scrape on the tree, while the missing lid connected to the accelerant used. “We have a truckload of evidence,” says Spingola.
Investigators’ efforts to interview Dwayne Taylor, who’s in county jail for domestic violence charges, are unsuccessful. He refuses to talk with them.
After reviewing the case, the team removes Sakeena and Ishaaq from the suspect list. With solid circumstantial and physical evidence pointing at Chisholm’s nephew, they bring the case to the 13th Judicial District Solicitor’s Office. Prosecutors decide to move forward.
On September 17, 2021 Dwayne Taylor, 36, was charged with first-degree arson and the murder of Debra Chisholm.
To learn more about this case, watch “Cold Justice,” airing Saturdays at 8/7c on Oxygen. You’ll find more episodes here.
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