Vigils have been held, searches, press conferences and investigations conducted, but the presumed remains of a 5-year-old girl whose mother was stabbed to death inside their Sumter apartment have yet to be found.
Sumter law enforcement and supporting state and local agencies circled back in their search for Nevaeh Adams by returning throughout the week to the Waste Management Richland Landfill.
Initial efforts immediately after the girl could not be found on Aug. 5 included going through 230 tons of material that had been transferred from Sumter County to the Richland landfill, but experts from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, who were called in by the Sumter Police Department to assist in the investigation, determined there may have been two additional truckloads of garbage transferred to the landfill that were not searched.
“NCMEC used its expertise in landfill searches to identify an area where remains and/or other evidence in the case would most likely be located,” Tonyia McGirt, public information officer for the police department, wrote in a news release.
A search began Tuesday, Sept. 17, McGirt said.
Landfills are a central factor of this case because the man who has been charged with murder in both the girl’s and her mother’s case reportedly told officers he killed them both and disposed of the child in a Dumpster at their apartment complex. The Dumpster was emptied by the City of Sumter’s sanitation department that day, leading investigators on a path to trace where that load may have been taken.
HOW WE GOT HERE
Adams’s mother, 29-year-old Sharee Bradley, was founded dead inside her Lantana Apartment home on Aug. 5. Her suspected killer, Daunte Johnson, 28, was seen running from the area and was taken into custody.
Soon after responding, police learned Bradley had three children. Two of them, the 12-year-old who found his mother and a 3-year-old son, were located unharmed. Her daughter was missing.
Later that night, Johnson reportedly admitted to killing both mother and daughter and said he put the body of the girl in the Dumpster.
Police have said evidence collected at the scene and analyzed by the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division support information Johnson gave to them. Arrests warrants say blood found at the scene belonged to both victims.
Dumpsters were searched that night throughout the surrounding area, and cadaver dogs searched materials at the Sumter County landfill.
Search efforts the next day took the investigation through 230 tons of material at the Richland County landfill, the number calculated based on the number of potentially involved trucks and routes within the timeline.
McGirt said Waste Management, which operates the landfill in Richland County, was “amenable in working with law enforcement to restrict further disposals in that area.”
Because the search is part of an ongoing criminal investigation that is being conducted on private property and because of the hazards associated with ongoing landfill operations, neither members of the public nor media are allowed access to the site, McGirt said.
“We would also like to strongly advise against use of drones because of the dangers involved in this operation and the distractions and hazards associated with drone activity,” McGirt wrote.
WHAT ABOUT THE SUSPECT?
A judge ruled on Thursday there is probable cause based on initial evidence for a jury to hear the case against Johnson.
He remains in the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office Detention Center and has been assigned a public defender.
He faces two counts of murder, two counts of possession of a weapon during a violent crime and one count of possession of a stolen vehicle. The stolen vehicle charge stems from the homicide of a woman in Missouri in which he is also accused. A warrant claims Johnson was trying to sell the vehicle of the slain women in Sumter.
A NATIONAL EFFORT
With the search resuming this week, McGirt said 60 or more public and private sector employees are now involved daily in working toward a resolution for the missing girl and her family.
The agencies and organizations involved are:
- Sumter Police Department
- S.C. Law Enforcement Division (SLED)
- S.C. Sheriff’s Association and its members (Sumter County Sheriff Anthony Dennis was recently named the group’s president)
- Sumter County Sheriff’s Office
- Sumter Fire Department
- S.C. Forestry Commission
- S.C. State Fire
- S.C. Emergency Management Division
- S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC)
- National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
- Waste Management
- McLeod Regional Medical Center