Convict charged in man’s disappearance

dprice@thestate.comDecember 20, 2012 

— Lexington County deputies have charged a 34-year-old Department of Corrections inmate with murder in connection to the disappearance of a West Columbia man who hasn’t been seen since Christmas Eve 2011.

William Thomas “Tommy” Embree Jr. is charged with murder and kidnapping. Embree is accused of kidnapping and killing 22-year-old Michael Jody George.

Embree and George knew each other, according to arrest warrants, and were both at Shooter’s Bar on Charleston Highway outside West Columbia between 10 p.m. Dec. 23 and 5:30 a.m. Dec. 24. Embree put a visibly intoxicated and sick George into the 22-year-old’s Nissan Sentra and drove off. He hasn’t been seen since

Deputies were able to arrest Embree, who is currently serving a six-year prison sentence on other unrelated charges, after finding forensic evidence that suggested that George was killed, Lexington County Sheriff’s Department spokesman John Allard said. The department couldn’t elaborate on what exactly the evidence was, but it also links Embree to the crime.

On Christmas Day, George’s brother contacted the Lexington County Sheriff’s Department to report him missing and told deputies he hadn’t talked to the 22-year-old since Dec. 23.

Later on that day, Gary George told deputies that he found his son’s empty car parked on Beckman Road outside West Columbia. Investigators used a helicopter and all-terrain vehicles to search for the man, but were unable to find any leads.

George’s body still hasn’t been found. His parents, Helen and Gary George said Tuesday that they hope that now Embree has charged, it will lead to their son being found. Gary George said he would even talk to Embree if it would help find his son.

“If I have to suck it up and make my enemy my friend to find out where he is, that’s what I’ll do,” Gary George said.

The two set up a small memorial for their son on the spot where his car was found, and are planning to release 365 balloons at Reeds Jewelers in West Columbia for their son at 1 p.m. Sunday, on the one-year anniversary of his disappearance.

“You can’t give up,” Helen George said. “A mother can’t give up.”

Detectives again Tuesday searched the heavily wooded area around Beckman Road where Michael George’s car was recovered. The department still doesn’t have leads on where the 22-year-old’s body is, Allard said.

Embree was convicted of aggravated assault after pinned his wife to the ground and choked her during an argument in March 2010, and started serving a 6-year sentence for the crime at Kershaw Correctional Institute this March. He was taken to the Lexington County Detention Center, where he will wait for a bond hearing before a circuit court judge.

Sheriff’s department detectives think that additional people might be involved with George’s disappearance and death, and continue to investigate the crime.

If you know anything about George’s disappearance or death, contact Crime Stoppers at 1-888-CRIME-SC or www.sccrimestoppers.com.

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