Freddie Grant (Image: Richland County Detention Center)
Columbia, SC (WLTX) - Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott said he believes his officers have found the remains of missing Columbia teen Gabbiee Swainson at a location in Kershaw County.
Lott said 53-year-old Freddie Grant led officers to a location near Elgin Thursday where Grant has said he buried the girl.
"The monster Freddie Grant took us to a location in Elgin where he buried Gabbiee," Lott said. "The search for Gabbiee is over...She is coming home."
Just after 9 p.m. Thursday night, Kershaw County Sheriff Jim Matthews said crews finished removing the body from the scene, after an excavation effort that took several hours. Her body has been taken to the State Law Enforcement Division's facility in Newberry County for an autopsy.
Lott was not specific, but said that something recovered at that scene led him to conclude with a high degree of certainty that his officers had found the girl's remains.
Swainson had been missing since August 18th, 2012. The 15-year-old was a student at Ridge View High School. Related Coverage: School District 'We Are Saddened by This Tragic Event'
Grant has been the prime suspect all along in Swainson's disappearance. He was being held in a prison in Kentucky after a conviction on a federal ammunition charge earlier this year.
Lott and Fifth Circuit Solicitor Dan Johnson said they had been in negotiations with Grant for months for him to give them details on the girl's disappearance.
"We made an offer to them and we haven't changed it from day one," Lott said. "There were some requests made that we could just not meet and we were not going to meet."
The breaking point in the case, they say, came last month when officers arrested Grant's daughter, 27-year-old Dominique Grant, and charged her with accessory after the fact in connection with the case. Deputies say she took Swainson's cell phone and dumped it behind a Piggly Wiggly store in Myrtle Beach. A delivery truck driver found it on June 18th. Previous Coverage: Evidence Extracted from Swainson's Cell Phone | Bond Set for Daughter of Kidnapping Suspect
"I don't want people to think that he did this out of his conscience," Lott said. "He did it solely because his daughter had been arrested and she was facing some very serious jail time."
Since then, Grant began talking to investigators, and on Thursday, Grant was flown from Kentucky to South Carolina. When he got off the plane, he led officers to the area in Kershaw County.
According to Lott, that same area had been searched "many times," but that Grant had done a good job of concealing the location.
Sheriff Matthews agreed with that evaluation.
"He went to great lengths to conceal this crime," Matthews said. "A lot times you find a deceased person in a shallow grave. This was by no means a shallow grave. This is a deep grave, and he went to extreme measures to keep from being discovered."
Matthews estimates the hole was at least five feet deep.
"It kills us, it kills us that we failed to find her," Lott said.
Solicitor Johnson says this will not be prosecuted as a death penalty case. Grant is charged with murder.
Lott had said early in the case that he believed Grant took Swainson from her Richland County home, then drove her to his home in Elgin. Investigators say Swainson's DNA was found in Grant's home in Elgin.
According to officers, Grant had been in a relationship with the teen's mother. Months before the disappearance, Lott said Grant had been given a key to the home so he could do flooring work. Lott told the mother, though, that he had lost it. Previous Coverage: Lott Says Key Opened Door Swainson's Home Lott said that when investigators entered Grant's home, they found the key on a ring hanging on a door.
Lott repeatedly had said that the girl's mother did the best for her daughter, and was in no way responsible for what happened.
"As I told her she'll never be by herself," Lott said. "This community, this sheriff's department is going to be with her from now on and it will always have her and will always wrap her arms around her."
Back in January, a federal jury found him guilty of being a felon in possession of ammunition. The charge came after Richland County deputies found a box of shotgun shells and a box of .38 caliber bullets at Grant's home last summer while searching for signs of Gabbiee Swainson. Previous Coverage: Freddie Grant Gets 17 Years on Ammo Charge