It’s football season and if you’ve been behind the wheel most anywhere, you’ve likely seen vehicles painted in support of local high school teams to celebrate homecoming week.
Motorists might also see tin cans trailing from the back of a car, its rear windshield announcing a couple has “Just Married.”
But drivers in Beaufort County may come upon a more eerie message painted on vehicle windshields this month.
“Kill, act crazy and you can be free. Talk to Preston Oates.”
A similar message has been painted on at least 60 vehicles in the area. It’s being promoted by the family of Carlos Olivera, a Bluffton man shot and killed during a Christmas Eve parking dispute, after his alleged killer was freed from jail on bond, according to Gilbert Araya, Olivera’s brother-in-law.
Oates, the tow truck operator charged with voluntary manslaughter in the shooting death of Olivera, 34, was released on bond Aug. 31 from the Beaufort County Detention Center.
Since Oates’ release, Araya, 30, of Bluffton, and other members of the Olivera family have hit the streets, offering to paint the message on vehicles at local gas stations. Their goal is to spread one message: The court made a mistake granting bond.
“Our goal is for everyone in the area to know this could happen to anyone,” Araya said Tuesday.
Oates, former co-owner of Pro Tow, had been in jail since Dec. 27, three days after the shooting a. He was first denied bond on the manslaughter charge on Jan. 28.
After an alleged attempt to escape from jail March 20, Oates was required to undergo a psychiatric evaluation to determine if he was a danger to himself or others. Bond was set at $200,000 July 28.
Bond terms require Oates, who is staying at an undisclosed location outside Beaufort County, to be under house arrest and accompanied by a relative.
A Beaufort County solicitor’s office employee calls once a week to verify Oates is at the site. He is not allowed to leave unless he has a court appearance, an appointment with his lawyers or an emergency medical situation.
Oates also is ordered to stay away from the Olivera family.
The 14th Judicial Circuit Solicitor’s Office is not aware of Oates violating any of his bond conditions, agency spokesman Daniel Brownstein said Tuesday.
Oates is scheduled to appear at a motion hearing set for the week of Nov. 14, Brownstein said.
Araya, a staff sergeant stationed at Savannah’s Hunter Army Airfield, said he’s tagged at least 48 cars with the slogan: “Honk if you’re against Preston Oates’ release from jail. Join us at 912-484-5125.”
The phone number is Araya’s. The public is welcome to call, stop by Araya’s Bluffton home, or check the family’s Facebook page, Justice! For Carlos, for updates on the effort.
Araya and his wife, Dezzel Solis, Olivera’s sister, also give motorists a red, white and blue ribbon in remembrance of Olivera.
“For my wife and my family, it’s just like it happened yesterday,” he said. “We just want to keep it in peoples’ minds.”
• For more information on the Olivera family and Oates’ case, click here.
• For updates on the case, follow reporter Cassie Foss at twitter.com/LcBlotter.