A judge ruled there is probable cause in the case against the man accused of murder in the death of a Sumter mother and her still-missing 5-year-old daughter.
Daunte Johnson’s case will be heard in front of a jury, where it will be determined if he is guilty of two counts of murder, two counts of possession of a weapon during a violent crime and one count of possession of a stolen vehicle.
Sumter Police Department officers say the 28-year-old told them he killed Sharee Bradley, 29, and her daughter, Nevaeh Adams, at the Lantana Apartments on Carolina Avenue on Aug. 5 and disposed of the child’s body in a Dumpster at the complex. Bradley’s body was found bloodied with “multiple injuries” to her neck and head and wrapped in a rug in her home. The child’s body has not been found, though an extensive search through the surrounding area and through 230 tons of garbage at two county landfills was conducted by investigators and community members.
Based on Third Circuit Court Solicitor Ernest “Chip” Finney III’s questions Thursday morning in front of Sumter County Magistrate Judge Larry Blanding at the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office Detention Center, the responding officer said Bradley’s son, who is 12, found his mother’s body and told investigators Johnson had been in the apartment in the hours prior.
After the about 20-minute preliminary hearing, which had been postponed from August because of what Finney previously said was a vast amount of evidence to be collected and organized, Blanding moved the case forward along the court proceedings process.
Finney and the police department, on behalf of the state, had detailed some of the evidence and findings at the scene, including a knife that was found and blood in the apartment that South Carolina Law Enforcement Division analysis determined belonged to both Bradley and Adams. Timothy Murphy, deputy public defender for Sumter County, who has been assigned to represent Johnson, had asked questions about the timeline, where DNA was found and whether interviews were recorded.
Reading the arrest warrants, which give gruesome detail that may have upset the already shaken family, was waived. A new detail that had not been publicly shared before included Johnson having been in possession of Bradley’s identification and Social Security documents when he was apprehended.
Johnson sat straight-faced through the proceeding next to Murphy, sometimes looking down, other times looking at documents in his attorney’s hands but never looking farther to his right, where members of Bradley’s and Adams’ families sat around Finney and his team.
Not everyone who wanted to attend the hearing was allowed in because of the size of the room, but the girl’s father, step-grandfather and grandmother and Bradley’s sister shed silent tears of grief as they stared at Johnson, their faces showing both anger and sadness.
About halfway through, Elijah Nelson, the girl’s step-grandfather and the family member who has been among the most vocal in the search for the child and the family’s want for closure, had to leave the room as he became unable to contain his emotions. Clutching his chest and breathing heavily, he was helped out by Finney.
After the judge’s ruling, Johnson was returned to the detention center as the family and attorneys filtered out. Family members lingered in the parking lot to talk with the police department’s investigators who attended.
“This is the beginning of a process, and my client remains innocent until this process is completed,” said Murphy, Johnson’s public defender.
He said he has just started talking with his client and that they will now begin to lay out a plan. He said he wants everyone keeping up with this case to remember that while it is a “high-media case, the presumption of innocence” is vital to retain as it is the basis of the American judicial system.
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