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GPS coordinates lead to murder investigation

Posted: March 13, 2017 5:49 p.m.
Updated: March 14, 2017 1:00 a.m.
C-I file photo/

Adam Ray Davis

The case of a missing Bethune man is now a murder investigation.

Several hours after holding a press conference Friday morning to announce the recovery of Adam Ray Davis’ body, Kershaw County Sheriff Jim Matthews released a short statement by email saying that, based on preliminary autopsy information, the case was now being handled as a murder investigation.

During the press conference, Matthews said an anonymous tip in the form hand-written global positional system (GPS) coordinates led Kershaw County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO) investigators -- along with Lee County deputies and S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) agents -- to Davis’ body. Davis, 35, had been missing since Dec. 29.

Acting on the tip, delivered by U.S. Mail to KCSO headquarters on Wednesday, law enforcement officers found Davis’ body in a shallow grave in Lee County.

Matthews said Davis’ family last saw him Dec. 29. He said the family initially contacted the Bethune Police Department and that "we were not brought into the case until four days later."

“We have worked every lead, searched different parts of the county, but didn’t get anywhere until we got this tip on Wednesday,” Matthews said.

He said the GPS coordinates were hand-written on a small piece of paper inside an envelope addressed to his chief deputy, Marvin Brown. Nothing else was in the envelope and nothing other than the GPS coordinates, written in pencil, was on the piece of paper. The coordinates came back to an area just off Post Road in Lee County which, in turn, can be accessed from the north from S.C. 341 or the south from Kelly Bridge Road.

“We thought this (Davis being missing) was the only thing this could be about because it was the only case where we were asking for tips like this and it wasn’t far from Bethune,” Matthew said.

He said KCSO investigators spent some time searching a large area around the GPS coordinates. He said, depending on what device was being used, different investigators ended up at different spots in the vicinity.

In anticipation of finding Davis, the KSCO contacted the owner of a cadaver dog SLED recommends in Greenville. Investigators had already found a “suspicious” spot that had been disturbed in the wooded area.

“We didn’t show him the exact spot we had found, so he had the dog search all around the area and it alerted to that spot,” Matthews said.

The sheriff said a cursory examination revealed that a human body was buried there.

KCSO and Lee County deputies cordoned off the area immediately around the site and remained overnight until Thursday morning when a SLED forensic team arrived to process the scene.

“They were very methodical,” Matthews said. “They searched the area and uncovered the body, which was identified as Mr. Davis.”

Matthews said after the body was recovered, he and two deputies spoke to Davis’ family and asked him about what he was wearing the night he went missing.

“What they described was the way the body was clothed. The fact that he was buried in a shallow grave gives us some concern,” Matthews said during the press conference, adding that investigators did not yet know exactly what happened. “The body wasn’t in real bad condition; it will be sufficient for the autopsy to come up with a cause of death.”

Matthews said there were no visible wounds on Davis’ body when it was removed from the shallow grave, but soon made the announcement that investigators were looking at Davis’ death as murder.

“Getting a (tip) like that is helpful, but it is highly unusual,” Matthews said of receiving the GPS coordinates; he declined to indicate where the envelope’s stamp was cancelled. “The family just wanted to find their son … this is giving them some closure. Somebody put the body there and we really don’t know where the tip came from, but we’re grateful. He had a family who loved him and had children.”

The sheriff said someone who knew the area “would not have had much trouble” driving to within 30 to 40 yards of the gravesite in the woods.

(The online version of this story has been modified to correctly report Davis' age at the time he went missing and to clarify the timeline of when the Kershaw County Sheriff's Office was first brought in on the case. A correction and clarification will be published in the Friday, March 17, 2017, print edition.)

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