Unsatisfactory pace of homicide investigation forces CMPD to rem - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina

Unsatisfactory pace of homicide investigation forces CMPD to remove detective from case

(Coleen Harry | WBTV) (Coleen Harry | WBTV)
Hammonds (Photo provided to WBTV) Hammonds (Photo provided to WBTV)

A detective in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg police homicide unit was removed for the unsatisfactory pace of investigating the death of a Charlotte high school senior whose body was found outside a house where she was staying in February 2017.

CMPD said they found the body of 18-year-old Shania Hammonds outside of a home on Willow Gate Lane in west Charlotte on Feb. 9.

CMPD removed the detective from the case this year after determining little progress was being made.

"I wanted him gone because it wasn’t right what happened to Shania and it wasn’t right the pace of which the case was being worked," Lt Susan Manassah said. "Every case matters. Every person matters and I felt looking at it that to him Shania didn’t matter. So anytime I feel a detective doesn’t care about their victims and victims’ families – you’re gone."

CMPD says in February 2018, the case was reevaluated and classified as a homicide investigation.

Manassah says she reviewed the case and demanded that the investigator initially handling the case, Corey Berman, be removed from the unit. The department decided against termination and reassigned Berman. Police office say he later resigned.

WBTV asked CMPD if Berman's immediate supervisors at the time were also disciplined. CMPD officials declined to answer, citing a "personnel matter."

But CMPD talked about why Berman was disciplined.

“Immediately I wasn’t satisfied with the answers I got from the detective as it relates to the status of the case,"  she said. "He only worked on it for a short period of time then it stopped. So it stopped because it didn’t go a step further right because those other things were hard. That’s where I see he failed the investigation – just staying on it and pressing the gas pedal."

The victim's mother says she knew something wasn't right.

"I was on the phone every day and I was never getting a response from this guy," Frenetta Hammonds said. "To when it got to the point where I was about to coming down here knocking on some doors."

Mrs Hammonds says at one point when she told another CMPD employee that the detective wasn't doing anything on the case, Berman later called her.

"And he said that he had some irons in the fire or something like that and he would get back in touch with me," she said. "I never heard anything back from him."

Still, she says.

"I don’t know what to say. I don’t want to belittle him or say anything bad about him but to me he wasn’t doing his job. He wasn’t a good detective."

Now, fresh eyes are investigating the case.

"We’ve re-interviewed every person that was in this case file and also identified other people to interview. We’ve talked with the family. We’ve maintained a relationship with the mother. We’ve sent stuff out to outsource testing. We’re constantly – I’m always constantly about every two weeks - asking what’s the status of the case, what are we doing?" Manassah said. "So it’s more of just making sure the gas pedal is staying pressed but then also I recognize the fact it’s pressed but you have to allow them time to drive the car

“It doesn’t mean that it’s going to result in it being solved. But I want to be able to sit across from Mrs. Hammonds and say that we’ve done everything," Manassah said.

A man who identified himself as Hammonds' stepfather said, "Shania was getting ready to graduate. She was a beautiful person. She was going to the service. She had a lot ahead of her. She hadn’t even lived her life yet."

Shania Hammonds' mother spoke out during a press conference Thursday. "If there’s anybody out there who knows what happened to my daughter please say something, please say something," she pleaded through tears. "Somebody cut her life short from her."

Family and friends said Hammonds attended Mallard Creek High School.

"I would have liked to see the gas pedal pressed a little harder in the beginning," Manassah said of the case. "The gas pedal is through the floorboard right now."

Relatives said Hammond was staying with a friend's grandmother, who was out of town the days before her body was found.  Family members said they had been trying to get in contact with Hammonds but she never responded.

There is now a $10,000 reward in the case.

“I want to be able to sleep at night knowing that we’ve done everything we can for Shania," Manassah said. "We’re making some really good strides. We just know that there’s no way somebody doesn’t know something you know. Shania just didn’t end up in the backyard of her residence and nobody didn’t see anything. It doesn’t make any logical sense so either somebody in the house knows something. A neighbor saw something or somebody has told somebody something."

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Her friends said she was in school the Tuesday before her body was found but they didn't see or hear from her the next day.

"They had been looking for her for the past day or so cause my sister was supposed to pick her up for school," said Stewart Cole, Jr. "My mom had came up here early this morning – it was kinda dark so she couldn’t really see so she was looking for her but she couldn’t find her so she came a little later like around 8 a.m. and was looking around. I guess she must have looked in the backyard near the shed, that’s where found Shania."

Police and the Medical Examiner's Office are trying to determine whether Hammonds' death was natural, accidental or suspicious.

Cole said he has questions.

"Just wanted to know what happened to her - who did it? What did it? Something. How she get back there. I know she didn’t walk back there – no socks."

Cole said Hammonds and his sister were friends for years. He remembers Hammonds as someone who was funny and  energetic. "She’s like - I can’t find nobody like her. She’s an original girl there," he said.

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