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Grant to serve 30 years in Swainson killing

Posted: August 15, 2013 4:28 p.m.
Updated: August 16, 2013 5:00 a.m.

Freddie Grant, 53, of Elgin will spend 30 years in prison for the kidnapping and murder of Richland County teenager Gabriella “Gabbiee” Swainson after negotiating a deal with authorities. Grant pleaded guilty to the charges in front of 5th Circuit Court Judge Robert Hood at the Richland County Courthouse Wednesday afternoon. Grant will be 83 years old when he completes his sentence.

Grant accepted all conditions of the plea agreement negotiated with law enforcement in exchange for showing authorities where he buried the body of 15-year-old Gabbiee. Hood sentenced him to two-30 year sentences for kidnapping and murder. Those sentences will be served concurrently -- not consecutively -- meaning Grant will spend only 30 years in jail.

Grant will serve the first 18 years of his sentence in a Kentucky federal prison where he is also serving a sentence for being a convicted felon in possession of ammunition. A federal jury convicted Grant on that charge earlier this year. Law enforcement found the ammunition when they were searching is Kelly Street home for evidence related to the Swainson case. Grant is convicted felon who was banned from owning guns or ammunition.

During a phone interview Thursday afternoon, 5th Circuit Solicitor Dan Johnson said Grant will be transported back to South Carolina after he finishes his federal prison time to serve out the remainder of his 30-year sentence. Johnson said Grant will not be eligible for parole or any appeal of his sentencing on the murder and kidnapping charge, as a part of the plea agreement. 

Johnson confirmed through a press release that part of the plea negotiations included dropping a charge of being an accessory to murder after the fact against Grant’s daughter, 27-year-old Dominique “DeeDee” Grant. The Richland County Sheriff’s Department (RCSD) charged DeeDee Grant in June after finding Gabbiee’s cell phone behind a Myrtle Beach grocery store. Law enforcement previously tracked the phone to Grant’s home and then determined DeeDee Grant was in the Myrtle Beach area where the cell phone was found.

According to documents supplied by Johnson’s office, Grant took Gabbiee from her northeast Columbia home around 3:45 a.m. Aug. 18, 2012. Grant -- identified as Gabbiee’s mother’s boyfriend -- entered the home and overpowered Gabbiee. At some point, Johnson said, he bound her hands and face and then suffocated her.

In exchange for the negotiated plea, Grant agreed to take law enforcement to where he buried Gabbiee. RCSD and 5th Circuit Solicitor officers flew to Kentucky Aug. 8 and returned with Grant who took them to a point just outside Elgin.

During the recovery process, Kershaw County Sheriff Jim Matthews described the location as about 75 yards into a tree line near Elgin’s Thermoid plant and about 30 yards from a nearby railroad track. During Thursday’s phone call, Johnson said the burial site was actually in the railroad’s right of way.

Johnson said he, law enforcement, the Swainson family and the public may never know Grant’s motive for killing Gabbiee. He said while Grant agreed to plea, he did not provide a confession.

Grant is also a person of interest in the case of his missing girlfriend, Adriana Laster, and the shooting death of Daniel Wood, who lived across the street from them. Elgin Police Chief Harold Brown has said that Laster was last seen in September 2011. Matthews said Grant thought Wood was having an affair with Laster, and that Wood was killed about a month after Laster disappeared.

Johnson confirmed he is working closely with both Brown and Matthews, but that he could not otherwise comment on either case. Brown said he met Tuesday with Matthews, the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division, U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation and Kershaw County Coroner’s Office to discuss how to continue the search for Laster. Brown said the group is looking into resources to help with the search sometime in the next few weeks.

“There will be another search, but I don’t know when or how,” Brown said.

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