The search for 15-year-old Gabrielle Swainson continued this weekend, nearly two weeks after authorities believe she was snatched from her Columbia, SC, home in her pajamas, clutching her cellphone. Suspect Freddie Grant, 52, Elgin, SC, remains in custody without bond on kidnapping and weapons charges.
Gabrielle is the daughter of OOIDA Member Alvin Thompson, who lives in Virginia.
Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott told the media in a press conference that Grant is accused of forcibly taking Gabrielle in the early-morning hours of Aug. 18.
Lott said DNA and cellphone records place Gabrielle at Grant’s home immediately following her disappearance and there is “clear evidence of foul play.”
It’s now reported that Grant actually assisted in the search for Gabrielle. Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott said in a press conference on Thursday, Aug. 30, that Grant went out with the family, walked with Gabbiee’s mother and even handed out flyers.
“He did what everybody else was doing, knowing all the while that he was the one responsible for taking her and concealing her from us.”
Grant has refused to cooperate with police since the “very first second,” even before he was a suspect, Lott said.
“We just wanted to talk to him. That was part of people we were asking, trying to get information. The very first thing out of his mouth was ‘I’m not talking. Talk to my attorney.’”
Lott said that police have been unable to talk to Grant and there has never been an interview or interrogation. Richland County police received a letter from Grant’s attorney Wednesday stating that they are not to have any discussions with Grant. Lott said they were told “not to talk to him or have anything to do with him whatsoever” other than what was necessary.
Police have been asking the public to help with the investigation. Gabrielle is a 5-foot, 2-inch tall black female with black hair. She was last seen wearing pink and black pajamas.
They are also asking anyone who may have seen Grant’s 1992 light blue Ford Escort between Friday, Aug. 17, and Saturday morning to let them know. Grant’s whereabouts during that time period remains unknown and police investigators believe that may be the time he hid the girl somewhere. The cellphone has not been found.
Police are also appealing to people who may have employed Grant. They want to know the places he could have been and had access to that may be in an area they need to search. Lott said Grant has worked as a truck driver and that is still his current occupation. However, police do not believe he had time to transport Gabrielle from the area.
Grant is also being investigated regarding his connection to a Homestead, FL, woman missing from Elgin since Sept. 3, 2011. She looked similar to Gabrielle. Lott reported the last place she was seen was with Grant at his house and “she’s disappeared off the face of the earth.” He is also a suspect in the murder of Kershaw County man in October 2011. The man was killed at his home, in the vicinity of Elgin, where Grant lives.
The FBI and numerous other agencies are assisting the Richland County police in Gabrielle’s case.
Lott wrapped up Thursday’s press conference by saying, “I’m appealing to him (Grant). Even as the monster he is, for God’s sake, tell us where she’s at.”
Lott said tips are still coming in and he still has hopes of bring the girl home. Anyone with information should call Crimestoppers at 1-888-CRIME-SC.