Tow truck driver sentenced to 26 years in shooting death

BEAUFORT, S.C. (WCIV) - A Bluffton tow truck driver was sentenced to 26 years in prison on Thursday for killing a man during a towing dispute on Christmas Eve 2010.

After a four-day trial, jurors convicted 30-year-old Preston Oates of manslaughter and possession of a firearm during commission of a violent crime for the shooting death of 34-year-old Carlos Olivera.

Around 8:30 p.m. on December 24, 2010, Oates placed a boot on Olivera's minivan on Live Oak Walk in the Edgefield subdivision in Bluffton. Olivera and his wife and children were visiting his brother and other family members.

Prosecutors showed Carlos Olivera and his brother, Nelson Olivera, argued with Oates to remove the boot and let them move the van. During a confrontation, Carlos Olivera showed that he was carrying a handgun, but put it away after his brother told him that it wasn't necessary, said Nelson Olivera during testimony.

While Nelson Olivera tried to remove the boot, Oates shot Carlos Olivera six times. Five of the shots were to his back back, including one shot in the center of his back that the pathologist testified could only have occurred if Olivera had been lying on the pavement.

Several eyewitnesses and family members testified that Oates fired as Olivera walked away from the confrontation and that Oates continued to fire as Olivera landed on the pavement face-down.

"This was senseless hyper-vigilance," said deputy solicitor Sean Thornton, who prosecuted the case. "Preston Oates is a dangerous person who deserves every day of the 26-year sentence. Although it took a long time to get here, I am glad we were able to deliver justice and some measure of closure to the family."

Jurors took three hours to deliver the verdict. By law, Oates has to serve at least 85 percent of his sentence before he is eligible for parole.