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KCSO investigating strangulation death of L-EHS graduate

Posted: February 27, 2014 5:32 p.m.
Updated: February 28, 2014 5:00 a.m.

The Kershaw County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO) and S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) are investigating the strangulation death of an 18-year-old Lugoff woman. Kershaw County Coroner Johnny Fellers said Briana Nicole Rabon, of Ridgeway Road, died of asphyxiation by strangulation. Fellers said he has not been able to determine a time of death.

Kershaw County Sheriff Jim Matthews said Rabon’s body was discovered around 3:30 p.m. by several young people behind the Haig’s Creek subdivision along a dirt track under some power lines in the Elgin area near I-20. Matthews said one of the children’s fathers called the KCSO to report what they had found. School officials confirmed Rabon graduated from Lugoff-Elgin High School (L-EHS) in May 2013. She would have turned 19 in late March.

Matthews said Rabon’s driver’s license was found near her body, but that positive identification was not made until later Wednesday night. He said that as SLED processed the scene, Rabon’s mother contacted the KCSO to file a missing persons report on her daughter and gave a description of her daughter’s car. Deputies located the car at a restaurant near the U.S. 601/I-20 interchange in Lugoff. Matthews said deputies arranged to have the car towed to KCSO headquarters where SLED later processed it for evidence.

Matthews also said that Fellers met with Rabon’s family near the crime scene. Although she had not been positively identified as the victim at that time, Fellers told the family it was likely the body was their daughter’s.

Meanwhile, all six members of the KCSO investigative team made Rabon’s murder their top priority.

“We are still actively following some pretty good leads. There was a lot of evidence at the scene. We have five or six investigators that have dropped everything -- this is their top priority right now,” Matthews said Wednesday night. “We have more work to do … (and) will leave no stone unturned.”

One of those investigators knew Rabon. Wednesday night, Matthews said that Inv. Dexter Handy once worked as a school resource officer at L-EHS.

“He confirmed her identify once they were able to turn over her body enough to see her face,” he said.

Matthews is also asking for the public’s help in finding Rabon’s killer.

“Although one can never say with certainty that we will solve this horrible crime quickly, I feel very confident that we are moving in the right direction. I am not too proud to ask for outside help in solving this and we will use whatever resources that are made available to us,” he said. “As in many cases of this nature, public help is always needed. If anyone has any information about this crime, as insignificant as it may seem, or saw the victim on (Tuesday) afternoon …  please contact the Kershaw County Sheriff’s Office at 425-1512 and ask for Lt. Steve Knafelc. Your confidentiality will be protected.”

One piece of information Matthews hope the public can help with is the identify of a possible male subject. Initial reports that Rabon was seen with a male subject Tuesday night did not pan out. However, it appears Rabon may have sent a message to friends that she was with someone.

“We are in possession of a screen shot of a Tweet from her Twitter account -- and we have no reason to believe that she was not the person who sent it -- that she was with a male subject Tuesday night,” Matthews said.

Matthews said investigators are still not sure if Rabon was killed where her body was found or elsewhere.

“We just don’t know at this point. There were no signs at all of a struggle at the scene,” he said, “but some people put up a fight and some just give in.”

Rabon’s death is the first murder in Kershaw County since September 2012 when deputies arrested then 46-year-old Raleigh Furman Jr., of Cassatt, after he allegedly confessed to killing and dismembering his roommate, Larry Lee Thomas, 30. The murder allegedly took place after the two argued about drugs. Thomas is still awaiting trial.

One month earlier, 15-year-old Gabrielle “Gabbiee” Swainson, of Columbia went missing. A short time later, the Richland County Sheriff’s Department arrested Freddie Grant, then 52, of Elgin on suspicion of kidnapping “Gabbiee.” A year later, Grant confessed to killing Gabbie as part of a plea agreement and led authorities to where she had buried her in a wooded area by some train tracks just outside the Elgin town limits.

(Staff Reporter Gary Phillips and Editor Martin L. Cahn wrote this portion of our coverage.)

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