August 8, 2013
RICHLAND COUNTY, SC — Deputies after 9 p.m. Thursday found the body of Gabrielle Swainson, the teen who went missing from her Northeast Richland County home one year ago.
“The search for Gabbiee is over. She’s coming home,” Sheriff Leon Lott said during a 7 p.m. press conference to announce his deputies had begun digging at an Elgin site they had searched before.
The sheriff’s department brought suspect Freddie Grant down from a federal penitentiary in Kentucky to point to where the girl was.
Lott said the case broke after Grant’s daughter, Dominique, was arrested earlier this year for helping her father hide Gabrielle’s cell phone. Freddie Grant was refusing to talk before that.
The site where she was buried is off U.S. 1 near Elgin in an area that has been searched many times.
“It kills us because we failed to find her” earlier, Lott said.
Gabrielle disappeared from her mother’s home in Northeast Richland County in the early morning hours of Aug. 18, 2012.
Grant, a 53-year-old who had been dating Gabrielle’s mother, Elvia Swainson, was charged earlier with kidnapping in the girl’s disappearance and was awaiting trial on that charge. In the meantime, he was sentenced to federal prison for being a felon in possession of ammunition, found when deputies searched his house.
Thousands of people have attended rallies and prayed for Gabrielle’s safe return.
Gabrielle was 15 at the time of her disappearance and was a rising sophomore at Ridge View High School, where she was enrolled in the bio-health academic magnet program. She was an honor roll student, attended church regularly with her mother, played guitar and sang and had been chosen for the school’s junior varsity cheerleading squad.
In the early hours of the search last August, Grant helped with the search.
But Lott has said his investigators quickly identified Grant as a suspect in the disappearance. They traced Gabrielle’s cell phone signal to Grant’s burned out house on a dirt lane in Elgin. Her blood and hair were found on duct tape in Grant’s home and on duct tape found in an abandoned junkyard near his house, Lott has said.
In July, Richland County sheriff’s investigators charged Grant’s 27-year-old daughter, Dominique Grant, with access after the fact of a felony for allegedly hiding Gabrielle’s cell phone in Myrtle Beach.
The phone was fond in June behind a Piggly Wiggly and was discovered by a delivery driver, whose niece charged it and called Gabrielle’s mother. Investigators said they have evidence that placed Dominique Grant in Myrtle Beach about the time the phone, which was in good condition, was discovered.
In April, Grant was sentenced to 17 years in federal prison for being a felon in possession of ammunition. He is imprisoned at McCreary in eastern Kentucky, where he will serve his sentence until January 2028.
Grant was given a lengthy sentence because he is an armed career criminal with previous convictions for assault with grievous bodily harm and kidnapping while stationed in Korea with the Army and possession with intent to distribute cocaine in South Carolina.
Grant also has been named by Elgin police as a person of interest in the disappearance of Adrianna Diana Laster, who was last seen around Labor Day 2011 when she was 28. Laster had lived for some time with Grant and he is believed to be the last person to have seen her.