Sumter man's disappearance still a mystery decades later

BY ADRIENNE SARVIS adrienne@theitem.com
Posted 6/3/18

Unlike the number of years that have accumulated since Richard Gary's disappearance in 1994, Sumter County Sheriff's Office has been able to collect very little information and evidence since the investigation started nearly 24 years ago.

Gary, …

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Sumter man's disappearance still a mystery decades later

Richard Gary has been missing since 1994 after his last sighting buying kerosene at a convenience store a few minutes from his home.
Richard Gary has been missing since 1994 after his last sighting buying kerosene at a convenience store a few minutes from his home.
PHOTO PROVIDED
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Unlike the number of years that have accumulated since Richard Gary's disappearance in 1994, Sumter County Sheriff's Office has been able to collect very little information and evidence since the investigation started nearly 24 years ago.

Gary, who was 56 at the time, was last seen about 8 p.m. on Nov. 27, 1994, by a convenience store clerk in Cherryvale about three minutes from his home when he bought kerosene.

In fact, the clerk helped him pump the kerosene and put the container in Gary's car because of his leg, said Senior Investigator Wesley Gardner.

Before the convenience store sighting, Gary was also seen by a woman on South Purdy Street about 5:30 p.m. when she gave him some food, he said.

The next day, Gary was reported missing by his son who lived with him because he thought it was unusual for his father, who takes daily diabetes medication, to not to return home.

Gary is also a right leg amputee and uses crutches to walk.

While it's been nearly 24 years since anyone has reported seeing Richard Gary, his car was found about one month after he was reported missing.

Gary's gold 1980 Oldsmobile Regency was located on the edge of a field about half a mile off St. Pauls Church Road, a few miles from his house on Rosewood Drive. The container of kerosene was still inside.

A man from the railroad company said he first saw the Oldsmobile on Nov. 28, 1994, and that it was in the same spot when he came back through on Dec. 29, 1994, Gardner said.

It doesn't seem that Gary would have parked the car there himself and walked away with a missing leg, he said.

Though there was no evidence inside the vehicle indicating foul play, then sheriff Tommy Mims said investigators thought something out of the ordinary happened to Gary, according to a 1994 article published by The Sumter Item.

"I think someone brought the car there to be found," Gardner said. "My impression was that it was someone he knew because it was not far from his house."

Deputies and South Carolina Law Enforcement Division agents searched the area by foot with bloodhounds and by air in a helicopter. A dog from the Clarendon County Sheriff's Department trained to find human corpses also assisted in the search.

Fingerprints were lifted from the vehicle, but there was not enough for identification, Gardner said.

Back then, the Automated Fingerprint Identification System was less advanced and required more evidence to get a positive identification, he said.

Gardner said he would have the prints checked again through the newer version of the system. You can do a whole lot more now with a print than you could back then, he said.

Information about what happened to Gary is scarce, and it has been even harder to recover evidence after the fact.

There have been no leads about Gary since that time, Gardner said.

Gary's son, the same one who reported Richard Gary missing, was polygraphed on Dec. 9, 1994, and he passed the test.

The son was polygraphed because he was acting kind of strange in the beginning of the investigation, Gardner said.

"Best I can remember, he was a pretty good guy," Gardner said when asked what he knows of Richard Gary's character.

Though his son was polygraphed during the original investigation, he was said to have gotten along well with his father, Gardner said.

Richard Gary would be about 80 years old today. He is about 6 feet tall and has brown eyes and black hair.

Anyone with information about Richard Gary's whereabouts should call Sumter County Sheriff's Office at (803) 436-2000 or provide information anonymously by calling CrimeStoppers at (803) 436-2718 or 1-888-274-6372. Tips can also be given electronically by going to www.P3tips.com and clicking on the "Submit a New Tip" tab.