LEXINGTON COUNTY, SC (WIS) - Investigators have charged a man with kidnapping and killing a missing Midlands man despite the fact that the victim's body has never been found.
Lexington County Sheriff James R. Metts announced Wednesday detectives served William Thomas "Tommy" Embree, Jr., 34, with arrest warrants for the kidnapping and murder of Michael Jody George, 22, of West Columbia. George was reported missing by family members on December 25, 2011.
Embree, Jr. began serving a six-year prison sentence with the South Carolina Department of Corrections on March 21 after being convicted in Lexington County of an unrelated assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature.
"George's body has not been found," said Sheriff Metts. "But our officers have been able to link Embree."
Arrest warrants allege that between approximately 10 p.m. on December 23, 2011 and 5:30 a.m. on December 24, 2011 Embree unlawfully confined and kidnapped George from Shooter's Bar at 3030 Charleston Highway near Cayce, Metts said. The two were acquaintances.
Witnesses told detectives that Embree removed the victim from the bar after George became highly intoxicated, ill and incapacitated there, Metts said. Embree placed the victim in George's black 1994 Nissan Sentra sedan and drove away from the bar, investigators said.
"He told us George stayed the night at his home because George was grossly intoxicated and that when he woke up he wasn't there," said Metts.
On Christmas Day, family members discovered George's Nissan parked on Beckman Road between Cannaberry Drive and Lena Drive near West Columbia, Metts said. Deputies and detectives used a sheriff's department helicopter and all-terrain vehicles to conduct ground and aerial searches, but George was never found.
In addition, arrest warrants allege that forensic evidence links Embree to George's disappearance and death, the sheriff said.
Detectives think additional people were involved in George's disappearance and death, Metts said. The sheriff said more arrests are possible.
"We believe there could be at least one other or maybe more involved, and we're close in making an arrest but we're not there yet," said Metts.
Detectives are continuing to search for the 22-year-old man's body.
Deputies on Tuesday transported Embree to the Lexington County Detention Center from the Kershaw Correctional Institution.
Under South Carolina law, a circuit judge would have to conduct a bond hearing for Embree in general sessions court because murder carries a punishment of life in prison, Metts said. The 11th Judicial Circuit Solicitor's Office has not yet scheduled a bond hearing for Embree.