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Suspect in Sumter girl’s death charged with murder

Sumter police give community an update on Aug. 5 killings at Lantana Apartments

By KAYLA ROBINS
kayla@theitem.com
Posted 8/27/19

Solemn faces and a national presence stood around two poster boards Monday as Sumter's police chief announced a second murder charge in connection with the mother and daughter smiling on the posters.

Three …

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Suspect in Sumter girl’s death charged with murder

Sumter police give community an update on Aug. 5 killings at Lantana Apartments

Posted

Solemn faces and a national presence stood around two poster boards Monday as Sumter's police chief announced a second murder charge in connection with the mother and daughter smiling on the posters.

Three weeks after 29-year-old Sharee Bradley was found stabbed to death in her Lantana Apartments residence, the Sumter Police Department has charged Daunte Johnson, 28, with murder in the case of 5-year-old Nevaeh Adams.

Bradley's daughter has been missing since her mother's body was found Aug. 5, and Sumter Police Chief Russell Roark said at a news conference at department headquarters Monday that analysis of forensic evidence collected at the scene and Johnson's statement have led to the assumption the child is dead.

"We have had an extensive gathering of forensic evidence on scene," Roark told media as he stood next to the posters - Bradley's a selfie, her daughter's a photo of her smiling and holding snacks and a drink - surrounded by 37, including the almost 20 city police officers who have worked on the case.

WHAT WE KNOW

New information from Roark included the possibility that two more garbage trucks may have been the one to unknowingly transport the girl's body to one of two county landfills and that the two family members may have been killed 10-14 hours before another family member found Bradley's body. Roark said she was found wrapped in a rug, her body bloody, Bradley breathless.

He laid out this information and the charges in what he said was an effort to give a timeline of how the initial search and investigation went, from where it began to where it went to where it currently stands and what will happen next, all "tragic events that have rocked this community."

In recapping previously reported information, officers and city sanitation employees spent that night, morning and day determining city garbage routes and what trucks may have emptied the Dumpster at the Carolina Avenue apartment complex that Monday, Aug. 5, morning. Johnson's statement to officers included a confession that he killed both Bradley and Nevaeh, later disposing of the girl.

Johnson, who is considered a transient and who is wanted in Missouri in connection with a homicide, was seen fleeing the apartment complex as officers arrived and was taken into custody at a residence near Poulas and Susie Rembert streets.

Roark said a second man at that location was also detained but later cleared and released.

Johnson's additional charges include two counts of possession of a weapon during a deadly crime and possession of a stolen vehicle. The vehicle, which had been abandoned in Sumter a week earlier than the double homicide, is connected to the Missouri killing in which Johnson is a suspect.

THE INVESTIGATION

Before Johnson gave his statement, officers spent the initial hours of the investigation trying to locate Bradley's two sons, a 12-year-old and a 3-year-old. The 12-year-old was found at the apartment complex, and the younger boy was located with a family member in a neighboring county, Roark said.

Once the search led them to the garbage routes, they went to the transfer station. Employees laid trash out onto the floor, as they usually do for processing, as officers combed through the contents by hand.

They then sifted through 230 tons of garbage at the Sumter County and Richland County landfills.

During the initial investigation, the missing girl's information was distributed via social media and to the media, was entered into the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children database and the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System.

Cadaver dogs from Foothills Search and Rescue out of Simpsonville searched through the landfill.

Richard Alt of NCMEC said a free resource provided by the organization called Team Adam was brought to Sumter. Two people considered experts in landfill search and rescue management came to Sumter to help calculate the location and amount of trash that needed to be searched. He said the police department also asked NCMEC to distribute fliers via social media and within their network.

Also attending the news conference Monday to represent their assistance in the case were investigators and other members of the police department, Sumter County Sheriff Anthony Dennis and S.C. Law Enforcement Director Mark Keel.

WHAT'S NEXT

Roark said officers plan to meet in the next day or two about the logistics of re-searching the landfills.

"It's more complicated than you may think, though," he said.

Once waste is disposed of in a landfill, it is covered and sealed air-tight. There is a "crush rate" of how much new garbage has been dumped and pressing down on the existing contents for the last three weeks.

He said family members were not and will not be allowed to help search the landfill - some have asked - because of the active nature of that "law enforcement function" and active investigation.

The Sumter County Legislative Delegation told Roark, he said, that the governor will support the continuation of the search for Nevaeh's body and that the police department will investigate any additional leads.

With Johnson's arrest and charges, the judicial timeline will next come into play soon with a Thursday hearing that will determine whether there is probable cause based on the evidence to move forward with a jury trial.

Third Circuit Solicitor Ernest "Chip" Finney III said at the news conference he intends to prosecute the case to the full extent of the law.

"I've never seen a case like this in my time here," he said, "with us having to search a landfill for a body."

THE FAMILY'S THOUGHTS

Family members were informed of Johnson's additional charges earlier Monday, according to Roark and Garryl Deas, a Sumter native and attorney representing the family.

"They want nothing more than for this man to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law," Deas said.

He asked for the community and the public to understand the family's pain.

"They have lost a daughter. A sister. They have lost a niece. A granddaughter," he said.

He said they are holding onto hope but mostly just want closure.

While he and family members have voiced concern previously on there never being an Amber Alert issued - officials have pointed to a lack of abductor and method of abduction such as vehicle description for not meeting commonly followed federal and state criteria for one - he thanked the police department and other agencies on Monday who have taken part in trying to find the girl's body and arrest, charge and prosecute a suspect.

Deas focused his statements on support for the family.

"We need to rally around this family. They are in pain, and they are hurting," he said. "This community as a whole is hurting."

As the news conference ended, other family members, including Nevaeh's father, waited outside. Her step-grandfather and brother and Bradley's sister, who have attended vigils and other related events who are being represented by Deas, did not attend Monday. Bradley's step-grandfather was there to begin with but left with Deas before the others started to talk with media. They voiced anger at not being allowed into the news conference, which was only open to media.

Elder James Johnson said he doesn't feel the police department has been giving enough information and that "they're being disrespectful."

Columbia-based Mustafa Abdullah, another advocate for the father, said he wants the FBI involved. He, the father and other family members and friends were not allowed to speak at last week's Sumter City Council meeting on the matter. Though Abdullah said the law was created at that meeting, it is a longstanding policy that only residents who live within the city limits can speak during public participation at council meetings.

"I'm still not happy or satisfied," said the child's father, Dupree Adams. "We're not going to stop searching."