Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Mystery Couple

The Mystery

The following ran in The Item newspaper on August 12, 2001.

No I.D., No Leads, No Justice

By Sharyn Lucas-Parker, Senior Staff Writer, The Item

In August of 1976, a woman and a man were found slain beside a dirt road in Sumter County. The deaths are unsolved and they still are unidentified. But they are not forgotten.

South Carolina map with Sumter County
South Carolina map with Sumter County

The two people buried in Bethel United Methodist Church cemetery whose bronze plaques read ''Male Unknown, Aug. 9, 1976," and ''Female Unknown, Aug. 9, 1976,'' never attended a service at the Oswego church or paid tithes there. But for the past 24 years, the members of the church have made sure their resting places remain free of weeds and overgrown grass and that fresh bouquets of flowers mark their graves.

There has been no one else to do it.

''If it were some of our children, we would hope someone would do the same thing for us,'' said the Rev. Michael Henderson, who has been the pastor for six years. ''It's part of that 'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.'"

Somewhere, perhaps thousands of miles away, or maybe just a state or even only a county over, local authorities believe there are heart-sick relatives who might suspect, but don't know for certain, their loved ones are dead.

Twenty-eight years after the young woman and man were found dead on a dark, secluded Sumter County dirt road between Interstate 95 and S.C. 341, their identities as well as that of their killer or killers remain a mystery.

John & Jane Doe, crime scene
John & Jane Doe, crime scene

That thought haunts Sumter County Coroner Verna Moore and drives her to continue trying to find the answers she needs to solve this puzzle that dates back to Aug. 9, 1976.

"I have not given up on this case,'' said Moore, who was deputy coroner back then. ''The reason I am haunted is, I cannot understand how two young people disappeared from somewhere and that their parents would not be looking for them. This does not make sense to me. Somebody somewhere is missing a son or a daughter.''

The case also bothers Sumter County Sheriff Tommy Mims, who was an investigator with the sheriff's office at the time.

''This is one of several cases over the years that we would certainly love to bring to a close so we can identify the perpetrators and bring them to justice on this,'' Mims said.

The story begins around 6:20 a.m. on August 9, when a trucker driving along what was commonly known as Locklair Road, a frontage road just off the interstate, stopped to rest.

Instead, he found a disturbing scene: Two people lying by the road.


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