Last fall, one of South Carolina’s most famous missing persons cases was abruptly thrust back into the limelight – with speculation swirling as to an alleged “person of interest” in the unsolved 1992 disappearance of Dail Dinwiddie of Columbia, S.C
Our news outlet was among the first to address the speculation … and while we did not name the individual at the center of the rumor mill at the time, we did delve into the specifics of this new “lead” with our law enforcement sources.
First things first, though … we need to bring readers up to speed on the details of the Dinwiddie saga (to the extent they are known, anyway).
In the early morning hours of September 24, 1992, Dinwiddie – a 23-year-old art student – disappeared from the Five Points region of downtown Columbia, S.C. after getting separated from her friends at a bar.
For those of you unfamiliar with the Palmetto State’s capital city, Five Points is a hip dining and shopping district located just east of Columbia’s city center. At night, its bars become a hub of the city’s nightlife scene – not to mention a favorite drinking destination of students at the nearby University of South Carolina.
In recent years, Five Points has become increasingly dangerous in the evenings – but back in the early 1990s it was still considered a relatively safe environment.
(Click to view)
On this fateful Wednesday evening, Dinwiddie (above) had accompanied her friends to Williams-Brice Stadium for a concert by the Irish rock band U2. After the show ended at approximately 11:15 p.m. EDT, Dinwiddie and her friends headed to Jungle Jim’s – a nightclub in Five Points that closed down in early 2012.
At some point after entering the crowded bar, Dinwiddie and her friends became separated from each other. Shortly thereafter – at around 1:00 a.m. EDT on Thursday morning – Dinwiddie’s friends departed, mistakenly believing Dail had either found a ride home or contacted her parents (who still live nearby) to retrieve her from the club.
Dinwiddie had not left the club, though. Nor had her parents come to get her.
At 1:15 a.m. EDT, Dinwiddie asked a bouncer at Jungle Jim’s whether he had seen her friends. He had not …
Fifteen minutes later, the brown-eyed, brown-haired young woman – standing all of five feet tall and weighing only 98 pounds – exited the bar, walking north on Harden Street wearing a forest green pullover, faded jeans and a blue L.L. Bean jacket tied around her waist.
No one has seen her or heard from her since …
That’s right … nearly thirty years later, no trace of Dinwiddie has been found.
The next morning, Dinwiddie’s father noticed his daughter was not in her room when he woke up to let the family dog out of their home. Calls to friends yielded no news regarding her whereabouts, prompting Dinwiddie’s parents to call the police.
Theories abound as to what may have happened to Dinwiddie, and the Columbia police department (and supporting law enforcement agencies at the local and state level) have chased down thousands of tips and more than 1,000 leads over the intervening years.
As we noted in our report last fall, law enforcement officers “have traveled across the nation, questioned multiple potential suspects and conducted all manner of searches and forensic tests in the hopes of solving the mystery.”
Twenty-eight years later, though … nothing.
Last fall, though, a faint glimmer of hope emerged …
As we noted at the time, the alleged victim of a reported sexual assault communicated a possible lead in the case to agents of the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED). According to our sources, the victim told law enforcement that the man who allegedly assaulted her remarked to her how she “reminded him of Dail Dinwiddie.”
The person who allegedly made this remark? Politically connected Columbia, S.C. attorney and former S.C. State Accident Fund (SCSAF) director Harry Gregory – the same man whose home was raided last Thursday morning by police in connection with an ongoing child sex investigation.
Gregory has since been charged with multiple counts of committing lewd acts on a minor in 2002 and 2004. According to our sources, his case will be referred to the office of S.C. attorney general Alan Wilson – who will determine whether to handle it personally or hand it off to a solicitor. Wilson is receiving the case because, according to our sources, S.C. fifth circuit solicitor Byron Gipson has a conflict related to a prior case that involved Gregory.
So … why did this news outlet not identify Gregory in connection with the Dinwiddie tip last fall?
Several reasons …
First and foremost, our law enforcement sources told us at the time they did not consider the Dinwiddie narrative provided to them by Gregory’s accuser to be credible. While not discounting the rest of her story, police apparently determined early on that the reference she made linking Gregory to the missing woman was unfounded.
In other words, while they couldn’t say for certain whether her accusation of sexual assault was valid – they were able to determine that the connection between Gregory and Dinwiddie was untrue.
Or, at least they deemed it to be untrue in the context in which it was reportedly raised by the alleged sexual assault victim …
Obviously, that is a key distinction …
At the time this rumor began making the rounds, police provided us with additional details as to why they reached this determination – but out of respect for the ongoing investigation we are declining to publish that information at this time.
Similarly, we are declining to publish the name of the alleged victim in that case – as is customary.
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Fast-forward to last Thursday, March 18, 2021 – when officers of the Richland county sheriff’s department raided Gregory’s home at 2508 Windsor Road in downtown Columbia shortly after 7:30 a.m. EDT. Deputies arrived at the residence with a search warrant ostensibly connected to the 2002 and 2004 child sex crimes Gregory is now facing.
Again, this news outlet is declining to publish the name of the alleged victim(s) in that ongoing investigation.
In reporting on the raid of Gregory’s home, we reached out to our law enforcement sources in the hopes of determining whether the search warrant – or the sheriff’s investigation into Gregory – had anything to do with Dinwiddie’s 1992 disappearance, as our sources were suggesting it did.
We were told unequivocally that it did not have a nexus to the Dinwiddie case.
Still, speculation in Columbia has persisted … in fact, we have spoken to dozens of Midlands residents over the last few days who are following the news related to Gregory’s arrest very closely. Almost to a person, they believe fervently that the high-profile raid on Gregory’s home last week was driven by the Dinwiddie case – not by the sex charges with which the prominent attorney has since been charged.
Is this speculation credible?
Let’s ponder that for a moment. Gregory is certainly well-known around town for seeking the attention of younger women – although this hardly makes him unique among the city’s cabal of aging attorneys.
“He’s a sixty-year-old man who likes twenty-year-old girls,” one of the attorney’s close friends told us, adding “there is nothing illegal about that.”
Certainly not … nor is there anything original about it, either.
But rumors also abound as to the sort of behavior Gregory has allegedly engaged in once he captures the attention of these younger women. At least one source with direct experience in these matters told us Gregory is a “sadist,” or an individual who derives sexual gratification from inflicting suffering or humiliation on others.
Allegations of abuse dogged Gregory’s former marriage, and sources familiar with that relationship tell us they “absolutely” believe he was (is) the type of person who would have been capable of targeting and harming Dinwiddie.
“He abused her horribly,” one source told us, referring to Gregory’s former wife. “He beat her mercilessly.”
(Click to view)
(Via: Columbia, S.C. Sertoma Club)
Additionally, the charges filed last week against Gregory (above, center) certainly lend themselves to allegations of sexual deviancy with younger women.
Is there more to it, though? Specifically, is there anything related to Dinwiddie or her disappearance?
Well, Gregory was reportedly in Columbia, S.C. at the time Dinwiddie vanished. His home was mere blocks away from where she lived with her parents at the time. And as he is today, Gregory was reportedly known by those close to him in the fall of 1992 for seeking out the attention of younger women – and for frequenting the Five Points district where these younger women went to bars with their friends.
Jungle Jim’s was one of his favorite watering holes, we are told. In fact, Gregory was reportedly friends with at least one of the bartenders at this establishment – a bartender who was working at the club on the night Dinwiddie vanished.
Does any of this make him an abductor, though? Or … a murderer?
No … it does not.
All of the speculation connecting Gregory to Dinwiddie’s disappearance is just that … pure speculation. Circumstantial conjecture. Unverified, unsubstantiated rumor. It would not be enough event to get a search warrant … to say nothing of a probable cause indictment from a grand jury (or a guilty verdict in a court of law).
Again, as of this writing there is absolutely nothing tangible connecting Gregory to the Dinwiddie case. Furthermore, there is absolutely no indication that the current investigation into Gregory has anything whatsoever to do with Dinwiddie’s disappearance.
In fact, our law enforcement and prosecutorial sources have stated precisely the opposite … definitively asserting to us that the current investigation into Gregory is not connected to Dinwiddie.
Why, then, do so many in Columbia continue to whisper Gregory’s name in the same breath as Dinwiddie? Why does Gregory continue to be – in text threads, telephone chats and living room conversations all over the capital city – a “person of interest” in her disappearance?
As he has been since last fall?
Fueling the fires to some extent was the unconventionally extensive and aggressive nature of the Thursday morning police raid on Gregory’s home.
“Do cops normally raid people’s houses for inappropriately touching a child almost 20 years ago?” one of our sources asked us rhetorically.
No, they do not …
Indeed, the firsthand accounts we heard of this raid – including the presence of a battering ram, of deputies approaching the residence with their guns drawn, the use of a loudspeaker – and the initial refusal of Gregory to voluntarily exit the premises – seem inconsistent with the charges he is currently facing.
“Overkill,” one attorney familiar with such cases told us.
Even veteran law enforcement officers who spoke with us confidentially seem to believe there is more to Gregory’s recent arrest than meets the eye.
“I think they are guarding the Dinwiddie part (of the investigation),” one such law enforcement veteran told us bluntly.
Certainly we would not put it past police and prosecutorial sources to take steps to safeguard such a high-profile case. Nor would we (necessarily) begrudge them for intentionally misleading us and other reporters regarding the status of such an investigation. Sometimes such deflection is necessary to maintain an investigatory advantage.
But again … as of this writing there is nothing to suggest this is what is happening.
Police have long believed Dinwiddie was kidnapped – and have suggested it was likely a carefully planned abduction considering the lack of witnesses or evidence connected to her disappearance. As we noted in a previous report, there was literally no crime scene. Dinwiddie just “vanished” in the words of former solicitor (and current state senator) Dick Harpootlian, whose office worked the case.
Many have speculated Dinwiddie may have been abducted by “someone she knew, or at the very least someone who had been stalking her for a long period of time,” per a report on the blog True Crime Files.
At the time of Dinwiddie’s disappearance, the Five Points region was not blanketed with modern surveillance cameras. Nor was there as heavy a police presence as there (arguably) is today … but the area was still quite crowded.
This has led many to speculate that Dinwiddie – who was said to have been a very cautious person – may have somehow been familiar with the person who abducted her.
Again, though … we simply do not know what happened. Like everything else related to this case, all we have to go on at this point is speculation. Which isn’t enough …
All we can say for certain is that a beautiful young woman with her whole adult life ahead of her vanished without a trace … leaving her friends and family to continue an agonizing, decades-long wait for some sort of resolution regarding her fate.
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