WIS Year in Review: The search for Gabbiee Swainson ends tragica - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina |

WIS Year in Review: The search for Gabbiee Swainson ends tragically

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COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) -

It's a story that's tugged on our hearts for a year.

A 15-year-old girl went missing from her bedroom. An innocent victim in a senseless crime.

WIS spent nearly a full year following the latest developments in the Gabrielle Swainson case.

It came to an end in August providing closure the community needed but an end result no one wanted.

"It's a sad day, I'll tell you, very sad," said Sheriff Leon Lott. "Probably one of the hardest things I've ever had to do in 38 years was to go to Gabbiee's house and talk to Elvia and tell her what we found."

Sheriff Leon Lott says Freddie Grant -- the man who was suspected early on of kidnapping Gabbiee --- led them to where he buried the teenager's body in Elgin.

"I don't want anyone to think he did this out of his conscience or he felt bad for Gabbiee or Elvia or this community, he didn't do that," Lott said. "He did it solely because his daughter has been arrested and she was facing some very serious jail time."

Grant's daughter, 27-year-old Dominique was in jail charged as an accessory after the fact.

Deputies says she helped her father by disposing of Gabbiee's cell phone behind a Piggly Wiggly in Myrtle Beach.

Sheriff Lott and Solicitor Dan Johnson say it took months of negotiations with Grant before he would cooperate.

The key was Dominique.

"This wasn't a case of "whodunnit" Almost immediately we were able to determine Freddie Grant was responsible for kidnapping Gabbiee," Lott said.

Gabbiee was found in an area that had been searched before but the Sheriff says the grave site was so well hidden even cadaver dogs were unsuccessful.

Still, Lott said part of him feels like he failed.

"It kills us," Lott said. "It kills us because we failed to find her. Even though we couldn't have saved her life, it hurts all of us to know that many, many people walked that area. Many people looked in that exact same place."

Sheriff Lott reflected on the personal toll this case has taken on him and acknowledged the impact it's had on the entire community and the world.

"The search for Gabbiee is over," he said. "It's a sad day for Gabbiee's mom and family but also for this community. The message tonight is: she is coming home."

Sheriff Lott said Gabbiee's mom, Elvia, was surrounded by loved ones -- and he says the sheriff's department will continue to be there for her.

"We cannot, just because it's coming to a close, we can't forget about her," he said. "Her memory will always be there and we'll always be there with her too."

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