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Elgin man ‘knows how to beat the system’

The Freddie Grant cases

Posted: September 11, 2012 5:20 p.m.
Updated: September 12, 2012 5:00 a.m.

The 52-year-old Elgin man suspected of the kidnapping of a 16-year-old Northeast Columbia teen and a suspect in the disappearance of a 28-year-old Florida native has had a history of slipping through the legal system.

Freddie Grant, a convicted felon, was arrested on Aug. 26 on federal ammunition charges. He is currently being held in the Lexington County Detention Center on those charges while awaiting charges for allegedly kidnapping missing Richland County teenager Gabrielle "Gabbiee" Swainson.

Grant has a history of drugs and domestic violence.

In the early 1990s, Grant was charged with intent to distribute crack cocaine twice in Richland County and appears to have served jail time for that crime. Years later, however, it appears he may have gotten out of another crack cocaine charge.

In 2008, local law enforcement agencies arrested Grant on crack cocaine-related charges after he sold "a quantity" of the drug to an undercover agent. The "buy" was a set up by the Elgin Police Department (EPD) and the Kershaw County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO). At the time, former KCSO deputy David Dowey headed the agency’s narcotics unit.

According to a previously "confidential" incident report released Tuesday to the Chronicle-Independent by the KCSO, the buy took place within one-half mile of Leslie M. Stover Middle and Blaney Elementary schools.

Dowey recalled the case, saying the KCSO and EPD bought crack cocaine from Grant on two occasions. EPD Chief Harold Brown said he was present at the buys and assisted with Grant’s arrest. Due to a limited number of resources, and protection of their informant, Brown and Dowey said they usually wait six months to a year following an undercover buy to make an arrest. Brown said that with Grant’s record he was looking at least a five-year sentence.

According to Brown, Grant visited the EPD sometime during the last 18 months asking how to get his arrest for the 2008 incident expunged. As far as Brown knew, the case was still active and told Grant that they would not expunge his record.

Expunging an incident literally erases it from a person’s record, as if the incident never happened; officials are not even allowed to say if an incident was or wasn’t expunged because all documents are destroyed.

Dowey said the case was still active when he left the KCSO in December 2010. The case could have been dismissed, because it was a "victimless crime," he said. However no record of the case’s disposition -- conviction, guilty plea, or dismissal -- could be found by 5th Circuit Solicitor Dan Johnson or the solicitor’s office in Kershaw County. No record of it could be found on the Kershaw County Clerk of Court’s online public index.

However, Kershaw County Special Services Director Peggy Spivey confirmed that Grant spent one night in jail, Nov. 20, 2008, on crack cocaine distribution charges. After that, no one is sure what happened to the case.

"He’s like a duck walking down the street in the rain. The water rolls right off his back. We did all we could," Brown said. "As I said, he knows the system. A lot of people he really dealt with are in the same loop that he is. He had a lot of decent people fooled. He is an expert at it.

"Experience; he spent quite a bit of time in prison -- the best college there is."

In an incident filed on Oct. 30, 2006, Grant is listed as an arson victim. Deputies said they arrived at Grant’s Kelly Street home to find fires at "four different points of origin: three mattresses, one in each of the three bedrooms… as well as one bedroom closet." The report noted that a neighbor said Grant was in Florida at the time of the fire. The reporting deputy reported no signs of forced entry.

This is the same home where a missing Elgin woman from Florida involved with Grant, Adriana Laster once lived, and where Richland County investigators believe Grant took Gabbie Swainson after allegedly kidnapping her from her North Crossing home.

Grant’s former pastor, the Rev. William Woodard, said there have been rumors that Grant was involved with the fire. According to Grant’s criminal history, he was charged with filing a false insurance claim under $5,000, but the case was later dismissed.

According to EPD computer records, Grant has been charged with driving under suspicion and operating a vehicle uninsured; been served a bench warrant for child support from the state of Florida and was convicted of criminal domestic violence/simple assault.

EPD had to subpoena Laster for a 2011 criminal domestic violence charge against Grant. Grant allegedly dragged Laster out of her car and slammed her head into a brick wall, according to one incident report. The EPD officers found Laster "bleeding from her head" near the Elgin branch of the Kershaw County Library, where she told police Grant "hit her in the mouth because she called the police." There is also a record of him abusing a girlfriend prior to Laster, according to Brown.

Laster’s guardian, Dorothy Fortson, has said she would feel "sorry" if Grant "gets out of this."

"… He knows how to beat the system," she said.

Grant also had several reports where he was the victim, Brown said.

"He claimed his car was stolen when we would catch someone else driving it, He claimed women beat on him, once or twice, I think," Brown said. "He used us a lot. He should not have been on the street."

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