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“Friday, Oct. 18, proved to be a bittersweet day,” Sumter Police Department Chief Russell Roark said.
After months of searching, the remains of a 5-year-old girl whose mother was found stabbed to death inside their Sumter apartment were found at the Richland County landfill on Screaming Eagle Road on Friday.
“Aug. 5 of this year was a day that changed this community, a day that impacted two families,” Roark said.
The Adams family, including Nevaeh’s father, Dupree Adams, was present during the news conference at the Sumter Police Department on Tuesday.
Sharee Bradley, 29, was found dead inside her Lantana Apartments home on Aug. 5. Her daughter, Nevaeh Adams, has been missing since.
After responding, police quickly learned Bradley had three children. Two of them, a 12-year-old who found his mother and a 3-year-old son, were located unharmed. However, her daughter was missing.
The suspected killer, Daunte Johnson, 28, who was seen running from the area and was taken into custody, reportedly admitted to killing both the mother and daughter earlier that night. Johnson told police that he placed the body of the girl in the Dumpster of the apartment complex.
Dumpsters were searched that night in the surrounding area, and cadaver dogs searched the Sumter County landfill.
Arrest warrants said blood found at the scene belonged to both victims.
Police later said evidence collected at the scene and analyzed by the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division supported the information Johnson gave to them.
Search efforts for the 5-year-old continued as officers sifted through 230 tons of material at the Richland County landfill, a number calculated based on the number of potentially involved trucks and routes within the timeline.
After going through the material that had been transferred from Sumter County to the landfill, experts from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children determined there may have been additional truckloads of garbage transferred to the landfill that were not searched.
A second search through material began on Sept. 17 and continued until Oct. 18, in cell six of the landfill, where human remains were recovered.
The remains were prepared for DNA testing by the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division Forensics immediately, and officers were notified Friday evening that the DNA from the remains matched Nevaeh’s DNA.
THE WORK BEHIND THE SEARCH
Maj. Stewart Robertson, of SLED, said it took two weeks to prepare the site for the search, as roads, power, equipment and more needed to be set up, and teams of searchers, forensics and more needed to be formed.
It wasn’t until Sept. 16 that they could start searching.
Robertson said the South Carolina Department of Transportation dug a hole in the pit of cell six at the Richland County landfill, where they removed material from the cell onto search pads and placed it in a manner that was six inches thick so that searchers from state fire and law enforcement could sift through the material.
This procedure was conducted for the entire five weeks they were in the landfill until the search ended on Monday, Oct. 21.
“We never imagined ourselves, in our career fields, being in a landfill sorting through debris in attempts to locate a beautiful 5-year-old child,” Roark said.
Keel said each agency involved is what made this operation a success. More than 40 local and state agencies collaborated and searched about 4 million pounds of material, and approximately 400 individuals worked together to bring the search to an end.
“Once we knew our mission was to search the landfill, we (Roark) both realized that our agencies alone were not up to that task,” SLED Chief Mark Keel said. “Numerous agencies stepped up to support this effort.”
“It’s our hope that as we go throughout the coming days that we begin to heal as a family,” Roark said, “we begin to heal as a community. It had an unimaginable impact on our community.”
“Right now, our hearts are heavy,” Attorney Garryl Deas said as he spoke for the family of Adams. “We are happy that there is some semblance of closure that might be able to begin for this family. To say the least, this family is emotionally distraught, not just emotionally but spiritually and mentally. This whole ordeal has taken an unspeakable toll on this family.”
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