The man accused of kidnapping missing teen Gabrielle Swainson put his cellphone number on a missing person’s flier and walked the streets with the teen’s family in the early search, Sheriff Leon Lott said.
“That makes me sick to my stomach to watch that and know he was part of that,” Lott said
To provide information on the case, call the Richland County Sheriff’s Department’s criminal investigations unit at (803) 576-3187 or S.C. Crimestoppers at 1-888-274-6373.
Freddie Grant, the 52-year-old man charged with kidnapping in the case, has refused to speak with investigators about the whereabouts of the 15-year-old Gabrielle. He was involved with the teen’s mother and began helping shortly after the girl disappeared, Lott said.
Local television stations have broadcast video of Grant helping in the first days of the search, Lott said.
“He did what everyone else was doing, knowing all the while he was the one responsible for taking her and concealing her from us,” Lott said.
Grant’s defense attorney, Fielding Pringle, on Thursday said it would be inappropriate for her to comment on the case.
Authorities still have not located the girl after 12 days of intense searching that has involved the FBI, the Richland County Sheriff’s Department and several other state and local agencies. Lott said there are two investigations going on: One to find Gabrielle and one to build a case against Grant. He said they are holding out hope that Gabrielle can be found alive.
Grant has been held in the Lexington County Detention Center since Sunday, when he was arrested on a federal weapons charge. Federal prisoners in the Midlands are held in Lexington County.
While executing an Aug. 21 search warrant at Grant’s house in Elgin, investigators found 12 gauge shotgun shells and .38-caliber hollow point bullets in the house. Grant was forbidden to possess guns or ammunition because of a previous conviction for possession with intent to distribute cocaine.
Grant also served a sentence 30 years ago at the military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., for aggravated assault and kidnapping, according to military records.
The Richland County Sheriff’s Department on Monday obtained a warrant for Grant’s arrest for kidnapping after finding Gabrielle’s DNA in his home and duct tape with her blood on it in the vicinity of his home, Lott said. He also said investigators traced Gabrielle’s cell phone to his house, but the phone has not been found.
Lott urged Grant to tell police where they can find Gabrielle.
“He holds the key,” Lott said. “He’s the one who can stop those tears from Gabrielle’s mother and stop the pain her in heart.”
Grant and his attorney sent a letter to investigators asking them to no longer contact Grant, Lott said.
In the U.S. criminal justice system, suspects are not obligated to talk to police, and investigators cannot force someone to answer their questions, Lott said.
“We can’t be like Jack Bauer on 24 or Steve McGarrett on Hawaii Five-O and make someone talk,” Lott said, referring to TV detectives who used violence to coerce information from suspects. “He does have his rights, and he has exercised those rights from the very first second we approached him.”
Gabrielle was last seen wearing pink and black pajamas, and sheriff’s investigators Thursday released photos of what those pajamas look like. If anyone in the public finds those pajamas, they are advised to not touch them but to call law enforcement immediately.
Lott also said Grant most likely was driving a light blue 1992 Ford Escort the morning Gabrielle was abducted. Police have the car but said people who saw the it in the early morning hours of Aug. 18 should call them.
People eager to help have tried to organize search parties, but Lott asked that they must coordinate with law enforcement because inexperienced people could hinder the investigation.
Lott also said investigators want anyone who may have hired or worked with Grant as a landscaper or handyman to call. Police are trying to piece together his habits and places he was known to frequent.