Crime & Courts

Burned body found in Chester is Kentucky woman; murder probe in SC/NC, sheriff says

A burned body found in September in a rural area near Interstate 77 in Chester County has been identified as a Kentucky woman who police believe was murdered, Sheriff Max Dorsey said.

The woman was identified as Melissa I. Whitis, 31, whose last permanent known address was Frankfort, Ky., said Dorsey and Terry Tinker, Chester County Coroner. Her death is now being investigated as a homicide, Dorsey said.

Investigators with the sheriff’s office and South Carolina’s State Law Enforcement Division believe Whitis was in North Carolina in the area near Interstate 40 in Davie County when last seen on Sept. 17, Dorsey said.

Law enforcement in Davie County, and areas near Greensboro and Winston-Salem in North Carolina, are now assisting in the homicide probe, Dorsey said. North Carolina state police and State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) agents also are assisting in the investigation, Dorsey said.

“We are asking the public in both states to help us in this ongoing homicide investigation,” Dorsey said Thursday morning. “We hope that anyone who may have seen her can help.”

Whitis’ body was found Sept. 24 in a ditch off Lizzie Melton Road. Sheriff’s deputies, along with SLED agents, have been investigating since finding the body that was in an area where the surrounding ground had been burned, Dorsey said.

Details about how Whitis was killed or where she died have not been released.

Chester County is a rural county south of Rock Hill, between Charlotte and Columbia. Davie County is northwest of Charlotte, between Statesville and Winston-Salem.

Whitis may have been wearing yellow pants, a gray overcoat and a knee brace, Dorsey said. Her hair was pulled up and she may have been wearing a knit cap, according to officials.

She had several tattoos that helped identify her, coroner and sheriff officials said. The tattoos included the names “Ethan Emily” on her right foot.

The woman had a medical device implanted in her skull, Dorsey said. Officials have not released what medical condition the device was for.

Anyone having information about Whitis or anyone having contact with her is asked to call the Chester County Sheriff’s Office at 803-581-5131.

Check back for updates on this developing story.

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