Walhalla, SC (WLTX) -- The Oconee County Sheriff's Office issued a press release Thursday to address the current state of the Tucker Hipps case.
Earlier this week, Sheriff Mike Crenshaw told the Anderson Independent-Mail that he thinks the chances are slim that investigators will determine what caused the Clemson student to fall to his death. Thursday's press release aims to clarify those comments.
On September 22, Hipps fell from a bridge that goes over Lake Hartwell. Hipps had been on a run with pledges and members of Clemson's Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity. Investigators have been unable to determine the events that led up to Hipps' fall.
Sheriff Crenshaw told the Anderson Independent-Mail that investigators have given lie detector tests to some of those they've interviewed. Crenshaw would not give details on the results of the tests.
The department's news release references those lie detector tests and other questions that the agency has received about the investigation. It reads:
"There has been quite a lot of media attention on the Tucker Hipps case and the Sheriff's Office has been transparent and open in its attempts to keep the public informed," says Captain Greg Reed of the Criminal Investigations Division of the Sheriff's Office. "However, finding out what happened to Tucker for his family and preserving the integrity of our investigation has been and still remains our top priority."
The case does remain an active and ongoing investigation even as it has been transferred to the unsolved case investigator, Dean Brown. Brown was hired in 2014 to investigate nine unsolved cases the Sheriff's Office profiled in 2013.
"Dean Brown is an outstanding investigator with years of investigative experience in local law enforcement and with his work with SLED," continues Captain Reed. "He has made progress in his work so far in his investigations into our previous unsolved cases which he has been able to devote his full attention to. I know that Dean will do the same thing in the Tucker Hipps investigation."
Media questions in recent days have centered upon comments attributed to Sheriff Crenshaw in which the Sheriff was quoted as saying that the chances were "slim" that the Hipps case would be solved.
"In every investigation that I have been involved with in my 30 years of law enforcement, and other officers know this, the first 24 to 72 hours are the most crucial hours in this type case," continues Captain Reed. "And as the Sheriff has stated, with the passage of time, it does become more and more difficult to be able to solve a case. But, that does not mean that this case, or any other, cannot be solved. The solving of Tucker's death remains a top priority of the Sheriff's Office and for the Criminal Investigations Division"
Another question that has continued to surface has been the decision by the Sheriff's Office not to release more information in the Hipps case. According to Captain Reed, that decision is not unusual in any investigation.
"The Hipps investigation has been handled no differently than any other investigation that we have conducted," says Captain Reed. "There is certain information in any investigation that is not released due to several factors. We are advocates for the victim in any case, but we also must maintain a level of fairness should any case bring charges and then go through the court process, where the selection of a jury could be tainted through the premature release of information. "
"We do release certain facts about cases in order to keep the public informed but a majority of information in cases does come out in court proceedings if charges are brought and that is the venue in which all information should come out," continues Reed.
As far as questions about polygraphs, Captain Reed says that polygraph tests are a tool that law enforcement uses much like any other instrument that officers have at their disposal and it is not unusual for law enforcement to use polygraph tests in an investigation. At this time, the Sheriff's Office will not be releasing any information on who was polygraphed or the numbers of those polygraphed as the Hipps case remains an active and ongoing investigation.
In regards to any further information in the Hipps case, Reed says that there is still not a timeline for the investigation to conclude.
"With the issuance of this press release, the Sheriff's Office at this time will not be releasing any further information regarding the investigation in the death of Tucker Hipps," says Captain Reed.