COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Residents in Batesburg-Leesville are asking questions about a town councilman who hasn't been heard of for several months. But if you ask Councilman Steve Cain about it, there's a perfectly good explanation.
Cain said he believes his life is in jeopardy. He now knows deputies, the town's mayor, some of his constituents, and others, are all looking for him, but he said coming forward isn't worth risking his life.
"My life is not worth that council seat," Cain said.
Cain said he's keeping a low profile in an undisclosed location.
"In light of everything that's going on in this country right now between police and African-American men, I am afraid for my life," Cain said.
The councilman has been in the headlines before, but this time around, his colleagues at town hall say he hasn't shown up to meetings since last year. More importantly, there's suspicion he might not be living in the council district he represents, which would mean he's violating state law.
A citizens' petition submitted to council this week says: "We have no one to represent us in matters that concern the Town and the District."
Council voted Monday to hire independent party to investigate where Cain's been living.
"I am in South Carolina, and I am in and out of Batesburg," Cain said. "I live in my district. I love my district. I represent my district. I am afraid for my life."
Cain wouldn't tell us exactly where he is. At his last known address, the mailbox is gone, vinyl siding is peeling off the house, and there's a for sale sign in the yard.
Lexington County Sheriff's Department investigators don't believe he's living in Lexington County. As for the citizens who signed the petition, they say there's a chance he's not living in South Carolina at all.
"I have no idea where Mr. Cain is," said town attorney Christian Spradley. "All I know is that I haven't seen him in a meeting in some number of months."
Cain said it all goes back to a meeting last year when he was physically removed from a meeting by the police chief at the order of the mayor. Cain said it's the reason he's since filed suit and sought safety outside his old home.
"I'm afraid that the police department in Batesburg will kill me," Cain said. "I am in fear for my life. I think this is a very serious situation."
Spradley is having a hard time buying that.
"I don't know that there's ever been any threats," Spradley said. I've never heard any threats from anybody at the town against Mr. Cain. From the police department, I mean, personally, I've known Chief Oswald since I was about two or three years old, and Wallace is a stand-up guy. I don't think he'd allow anything like that to happen within his police department."
Cain is wanted by the Lexington County Sheriff's Department on two bench warrants for failing to pay child support. He's been in the same sort of trouble before as you see in this video from 2013, but he said he had no idea about the new warrants. He said he'll only feel safe to come out of the darkness when his lawsuit against town leaders has been resolved.
Spradley said if the investigator finds any evidence that Cain was not living in his council district, for any amount of time, council will have the opportunity to remove him from office after a hearing.
"Any claim to say that our officers or our Town Chief is a threat to anyone is simply without merit," said Council Member Charles Simpkins in a statement released Thursday.
Simpkins also expressed concern for people living in Cain's district who may feel they're not being represented on council.
"If any citizen feels they are not being represented, it is their right to bring that concern to Council."
Meanwhile, Lexington County asks anyone who knows of his whereabouts to cal Crimestoppers at 1-888-CRIME-SC.