Ex-husband charged in killing, kidnapping of Cherryvale woman

27-year-old reported missing hours before discovered in shallow grave in west Sumter woods


The ex-husband of the 27-year-old woman whose body was found in a shallow grave in Manchester State Forest last week has been charged in her death.

James Ginther, 26, of Beltline Boulevard in Columbia, was arrested on Monday in Louisville, Kentucky, for allegedly kidnapping and killing Suzette Ginther.

Suzette's body was found in the state forest about 150 feet off Burnt Gin Road by a hunter at about 4 p.m. Nov. 16 — a few hours after she was reported missing by her boyfriend and failed to show up for work at PetSmart in Columbia.

The couple legally divorced this year, Sumter County Sheriff Anthony Dennis said. They have two young children together.

The sheriff said the Cherryvale woman died of a single gunshot wound but did not say where she was shot. 

Investigators think her body was discovered not far from where she was killed, officials said at a press conference Monday afternoon.

Her body was found in a portion of the forest in Wedgefield about eight miles from her residence on North Lake Cherryvale Drive, which is off Broad Street, opposite of Shaw Air Force Base. Her vehicle was found in Cherryvale, not far from her home.

A deputy found the vehicle parked in an area of Cherryvale known for its criminal history and later connected it to the missing woman and the man who is now suspected of killing her, investigator Randall Stewart said.

Suspecting that James Ginther had fled the area, the sheriff's office issued warrants for his arrest, Sheriff Dennis said.

He was arrested by Louisville Metro Police Department at about 4:30 a.m. when officers saw the warrants out of South Carolina while checking his license plate after a "minor traffic incident."

He reportedly fell asleep while driving and hit a guard rail, said Ken Bell, public information officer for the Sumter sheriff's office.

A firearm matching the caliber of weapon used to kill Suzette Ginther was found on James Ginther during his arrest, though it has not yet been determined if the gun was used in the crime, Dennis said.

Louisville authorities are continuing to assist local investigators by processing James Ginther's vehicle. 

Dennis said county investigators think the incident was a crime of passion but did not discuss the evidence that influenced that determination. 

Investigators had not interviewed James Ginther by the time officials held the press conference Monday.

James will be extradited back to South Carolina soon, Dennis said. 

The sheriff issued thanks to SLED, Louisville Metro Police for their continued assistance in the investigation. 

"We certainly appreciate all of their hard work," he said, "to bring closure for this family.”