For more than one hundred people in Columbia, S.C., Sunday evening was a moment to close ranks and pray, as the community came together for a vigil for missing teenager Gabrielle Swainson.
"I'm still believing Gabbiee is going to come home. She's coming home soon. She's going to walk into our lives again and we will be able to mend and go back to our normal lives," the missing 15-year-old's mother, Elvia Swainson, told the crowd gathered at the "Hope for Gabbiee event."
The event, which was rained out early, was held at the Village at Sandhill. Many of those in attendance offered words of support for the family and friends of the missing teen.
"Even though we don't know where she is, we know the person responsible," Chris Kell, the missing teen's guitar teacher, told WLTX. "We believe that if God is for us, then who can be against us? There's nothing that can stand between us and Gabbiee. It's all on his timing."
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The high school cheerleader was last seen in her Columbia home at about 3:30 a.m. on Aug. 18, when her mother left for work. The girl's mother told police her daughter was asleep in her bedroom before she left. When the teen's mother returned at about 7:15 that morning, the teen was gone.
Though Gabrielle Swainson has not yet been found, 52-year-old Freddie Grant is charged with kidnapping in Swainson's disappearance. Authorities say the girl's blood was found on duct tape near the ex-convict's home.
Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott said authorities suspect Grant entered the Swainson home on Aug. 18, forcibly took the teen and drove her to his home.
Grant, a landscaper, was initially investigated because he is a convicted felon, police said. The 52-year-old has prior convictions for possession with intent to distribute cocaine and aggravated assault and kidnapping. According to Lott, Grant had participated in searches for Swainson.
Cell phone records showed that Grant's mobile device was near Swainson's home around the time she disappeared. Authorities obtained a search warrant for Grant's home and allegedly discovered 12-gauge shotgun shells and .38-caliber bullets –- items his prior convictions made him ineligible to possess. Additional searches were conducted around the home, where investigators found a bloody piece of duct tape. Analysis of the tape revealed both Grant and Swainson's DNA, police said.
Grant is also a suspect in at least two other unsolved cases in South Carolina. According to Elgin Police Chief Harold Brown, Grant is a person of interest in the disappearance of Adrianna Diana Laster, a 28-year-old woman who disappeared in September 2011. The Kershaw County Sheriff's Office has also named Grant a person of interest in the murder of Daniel Lee Wood, 36, who was shot and killed in October 2011.
Grant is being held without bond at the Lexington County Detention Center. According to the Richland County Sheriff's Department, Grant has been "completely uncooperative" with the investigation. His attorney, Fielding Pringle, has declined to discuss the case. Earlier this week, the attorney sent a letter to authorities asking them not to contact her client.
"He's still locked up. He's still not being cooperative," Swainson's aunt, Zoraida Turnipseed, told The Huffington Post on Monday.Related Resources:
- Black And Missing Foundation
- HuffPost Crime Missing Persons
- The Black And Missing Foundation Aims To Find People Of Color
While rain brought an abrupt end to Swainson's vigil Sunday, her family said they plan to reschedule it for a future date.
"We had a number of things planned for the community, including other performances that unfortunately had to be cancelled due to safety precautions and the sudden change in weather," Elvia Swainson said.
Meanwhile, Elvia Swainson said the Community United Effort Center for Missing Persons is helping the Richland County Sheriff's office in the search to find her daughter. The organization was recently successful in finding the bodies of Jake Ziegler and Ray Pierce, two teens missing from Catawba County, N.C.
Gabrielle Swainson is a black female, about 5-feet-2-inches tall with black hair and brown eyes. She was last seen wearing a black tank top and pink-and-black pajama bottoms, with black-and-white Adidas brand sandals. Swainson has braces on her teeth, but authorities are not releasing the color of the braces because the color is unusual and would help them confirm a possible sighting.
Richland County sheriff's deputies are asking anyone with information to call 803-576-3000 or Crime Stoppers at 1-888-CRIME-SC.