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Column: Bring Adrianna home
Martin Cahn (2019).jpg
Martin L. Cahn

Elgin Police Chief Harold Brown posted the following to the Supporters of the Elgin, SC Police Department’s Facebook page recently:

“On 9/3/2011, Adrianna Diana Laster was last seen around Kelly St. in the Town of Elgin. She is 5’4” tall, 120lbs. brown eyes and her birthdate is 10/28/1983. Despite assistance from State, local and national agencies, she was never found. We do suspect foul play. If you have any information to help us locate Ms. Laster, please contact the Elgin Police Department at (803) 438-9917. We are offering a $500 reward for information that leads us to her location. She has a daughter who hasn’t seen her mother in 8 years. Someone knows something and this case will never be closed until we can locate her.”

I suspect there is one man who knows exactly where Adrianna is, and he’s sitting in a Kentucky federal prison. His name is Freddie Grant and he is serving a sentence for being a convicted felon in possession of ammunition. In 2031, he will be transferred from Kentucky to a South Carolina state prison to serve out the remaining 12 years of a 30-year sentence for killing 15-year-old Gabbiee Swainson of Richland County in 2012.

Grant received the 30-year sentence as part of a plea deal for showing law enforcement officers exactly where he buried Gabbiee: about 75 yards into a wooded area just outside the Elgin town limits near the Thermoid plant, some 30 yards from a nearby railroad track.

I shiver almost every time I cross the bridge over those railroad tracks when I go into or out of Elgin.

In exchange for his leading investigators to Gabbiee’s nearly 6-foot-deep grave, former Fifth Circuit Solicitor Dan Johnson did three things: 1) he droped murder accessory charges against Grant’s daughter, 2) took the death penalty off the table as a possible sentence, and -- based on court records I’ve kept up with for the last seven years -- 3) never charged Grant with anything connected to Adrianna’s disappearance.

To be fair, what little evidence there is against Grant about Adrianna is purely circumstantial and Brown can only consider him a person of interest. Adrianna was his live-in girlfriend prior to her disappearance in September 2011, which is when she was last seen. Members of Adrianna’s family claimed she thought Grant would kill her. DNA evidence shows Adrianna was in Grant’s home, but that was to be expected. Also, Adrianna went missing several times, but was always found, including once at a home near Grant’s on Kelly Street, where she might have been trying to hide from him.

Another thing tying Grant to Adrianna’s disappearance is the still unsolved murder of Daniel Lee Wood. Wood lived across the street from where Adrianna was living with Grant and, apparently, knew Adrianna. Someone shot Wood three times, killing him, in front of a home on Trinity School Road. Deputies spoke to a person of interest and even recovered a gun, but there was not evidence against that person to charge them.

After Richland County named Grant as the suspect in Gabbiee’s disappearance, the Kershaw County Sheriff’s Office began looking at him for Wood’s murder.

In August 2013, former Kershaw County Sheriff Jim Matthews said Grant thought Adrianna and Wood were having an affair and that whoever killed Wood did so just a month after Adrianna disappeared. Matthews also speculated that since Grant had been arrested for Gabbiee’s death, he would cooperate on the other cases.

But that didn’t happen. When Johnson took the death penalty off the table and dismissed the accessory charge against his daughter, Grant no longer had any motivation to help anyone figure out what happened to Adrianna, much less admit to killing Wood, if that’s what happened.

Do I know Grant killed Wood and, likely, Adrianna? No. Do I think he did? Yes.

What I do know is that if there is one person who at least knows something about Adrianna, it’s Grant.

All we need now is someone to come forward with enough information to bring Adrianna home, one way or another.