COLUMBIA A man described as a monster and career criminal forced 15-year-old Gabrielle Swainson from her home in the wee hours of Aug. 18 and took her to his burned-out house on a dirt lane in Elgin, S.C., authorities say.
What happened in that house is unknown, but there is clear evidence of foul play, Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott said Tuesday.
Now, 52-year-old Freddie Grant is in jail on kidnapping and federal gun charges, refusing to cooperate with the FBI and sheriffs investigators, who were searching for Gabrielle.
A monster came in that morning and did something that only happens in our nightmares, Lott said.
Grant had a relationship with Gabrielles mother, Elvia Swainson, and investigators quickly focused on him as the top suspect when the teen disappeared.
Investigators traced Gabrielles cellphone signal to Grants house and found her DNA there, Lott said. While the sheriff was reluctant to release many details, he did say the missing teens blood was found on duct tape in the vicinity of Grants house.
Grant also is being investigated in connection to another missing person case.
Elgin Police Chief Harold Brown said his agency is looking into 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 see her, Brown said.
On Tuesday, investigators focused on Carns Salvage, an old auto junkyard in Elgin, which is across a set of railroad tracks from Grants house. At one point, Kershaw County Coroner Johnny Fellers went to the junkyard with shovels but nothing came of his search.
Lott described Grant as a career criminal. Grants criminal history includes aggravated assault, battery, criminal domestic violence, multiple charges for cocaine and weapons violations in Florida and South Carolina.
Grant had mowed the Swainsons yard Aug. 17, the day before Gabrielle disappeared, Lott said.
Swainson left home around about 3:45 a.m. on Aug. 18 to go to her office to catch up on work. Before leaving, she briefly woke her daughter and handed the girl her iPhone. Swainson typically confiscated the phone around 8:30 each night so her daughter could not send late text messages to friends.
When Swainson returned home about 7:30 a.m., her daughter was gone. Nothing was missing but Gabrielle and her phone.
On Tuesday, Lott said Grant forcibly took the girl, who was barefoot and wearing pajamas, from the house. He said investigators have established a timeline through cellphone tracking.