Sheriff: 21-year-old murder suspect knew Briana Rabon, has criminal history

Published: Mar. 3, 2014 at 9:16 PM EST|Updated: Sep. 28, 2015 at 1:13 PM EDT
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(Source: Kershaw County Detention Center)
(Source: Kershaw County Detention Center)
Briana Nicole Rabon
Briana Nicole Rabon

KERSHAW COUNTY, SC (WIS) - Kershaw County Sheriff Jim Matthews said investigators arrested Stephen Ross Kelly, 21, who lives on Leslie Branham Rd in Lugoff Friday for the murder of Briana Nicole Rabon.

In a press conference Saturday, Matthews said Kelly is facing murder, kidnapping and criminal sexual conduct charges.

Rabon, 18, was found dead in a wooded area behind Haig's Creek Subdivision in Elgin on Feb. 26.

The coroner's office revealed Rabon's cause of death was due to strangulation.

"God answered a lot of people's prayers today, mine included," Matthews told WIS Friday. "Throughout this investigation, my investigators have been keeping me apprised of their progress and things started looking very good."

Matthews said they obtained a search warrant for Kelly's car and brought him to the sheriff's office for questioning.

"My investigators interviewed Stephen Kelly and partway during the interview he decided he needed to talk to a lawyer," Matthews said. "We are very confident we have the right guy. We have a lot of good forensic evidence."

Matthews said Kelly's stories bounced around when he started talking with investigators.

"I guess he figured out he was getting caught in his lies and he asked to talk to a lawyer and that's the last we spoke to him," Matthews said.

Matthews said Rabon and Kelly were acquaintances, possibly from high school and they are currently not looking for any additional suspects.

"At this point we don't have any indication that there was anybody else," Matthews said. "That's not to say that something might develop later but at this time, at this point we think we have the sole person who did this."

Matthews said Briana's mother was very grateful when she heard the news.

"I called them right when I found out and told them they were," Matthews said. "They were pretty much stunned by it but very happy and very grateful. I don't know if they knew him or not. When I told Briana's mother that we made an arrest and who it was she didn't recognize the name right off the bat and she was kind of quiet and I guess it hadn't sunk in, and then she was just so grateful. I was actually calling her in advance of my two investigators going to her house and giving her a few more details."

SLED and the Richland County Sheriff's Department also assisted with the investigation.

"I might add that had it not been for the assistance of SLED on this we wouldn't be where we are today," Matthews said. "It's a combination of their excellent forensics team and just the hard work of our criminal agents as well as my narcotics guys. [They] just went after every lead they can find until they got to the point where they got the search warrant and ultimately make the arrest."

This isn't Kelly's first run in with the law.

According to court records, Kelly plead guilty last November for receiving stolen goods worth $10,000 or more after he burglarized a home and stole a truck and dumped it in a wooded area. He was sentenced to time served in jail and was also ordered to pay $1,000 in restitution.

Pete O'Boyle with the South Carolina Department of Probation, Parole and Pardon Services said Monday Kelly was also given probation but the type of probation he was sentenced to by the judge ended when he paid his fine and some other fees.

In June, he was arrested for criminal domestic violence (first offense) for assaulting his girlfriend at the time and that case is currently pending in Kershaw County court.

Matthews said where the stolen truck was found last year was in the same location where Rabon's body was discovered.

Kelly is currently being detained at the Kershaw County Detention Center. A bond hearing will be held during the next term of general session court.

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