It has been 327 days since Gabrielle Swainson was last seen. But on June 18, 304 days after the girl’s disappearance, the girl’s cellphone was found behind a Piggly Wiggly in Myrtle Beach.
Deputies have accused Dominique Grant, daughter of the man accused of kidnapping the 15-year-old, of putting the phone there. The 27-year-old has been arrested and charged with accessory after the fact of a felony for her alleged role in the girl’s disappearance after investigators found information that put Dominque Grant in Myrtle Beach around the same time the phone was later discovered by a delivery driver.
Grant was being held Thursday night at the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center on a $300,000 surety bond and has requested a public defender to represent her in the case.
Her father, Freddie Grant, has been charged with kidnapping Gabrielle, who vanished from her bed in a Northeast Richland home early on Aug. 18, 2012, leaving behind a small amount of blood. The girl had her cellphone that night, and investigators later used it to trace the girl’s trail to Freddie Grant’s home in Elgin and to obtain a search warrant for his house.
By the time officers searched the home Aug. 28, however, the phone’s trail had gone cold. Pieces of duct tape with the girl’s blood and hair were found there and in a junkyard nearby, but there were no other traces of the girl. Still, Grant was arrested on federal ammunition charges after officers found .38-caliber bullets and shotgun shells in the home. Grant, a convicted felon prohibited from owning guns or ammunition, is currently serving a 17-year federal sentence on the ammo charge. He was later charged with kidnapping in circuit court but has not gone to trial.
The phone, a critical piece of evidence in the early days of the investigation, also disappeared without a trace. When it resurfaced last month, it was because a delivery driver found it outside the grocery store. The driver’s niece powered the phone up and called Gabrielle’s mother, Elvia Swainson, who hadn’t seen her daughter since she left home about 3 a.m. to catch up on some work for her job.
“You can only imagine how she felt” when she got that call, said Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott said.
Deputies have searched for the girl too many times to count and still hold out hope she is alive, Lott said Thursday. Other agencies around the state and nation have aided in the search, and deputies regularly receive tips on the girl’s possible whereabouts.
Lott said Freddie Grant, who once dated Gabrielle’s mother, hasn’t been willing to cooperate in the search for the girl, who would now be 16. Neither has Dominique Grant, Lott said.
“They’re still trying to sabotage this investigation even though he’s been convicted and is serving time, he said. “And now she’s going to be his accomplice to this crime.”
During Dominique Grant’s bond hearing Thursday evening at the jail, Richland County sheriff’s Sgt. Shawn McDaniels said the phone was in fairly good condition for a phone that would have been weathered had it been in Gabrielle’s possession for the past 327 days – or in the elements in Horry County.
In the trial for her father’s federal ammunition charge, Dominique Grant testified that the bullets and shells were hers and that she kept them in bags and boxes when she visited the home. But prosecutors said her father knew the ammo was there, presenting photos of the ammunition out on nightstands and in view on an end table’s bottom shelf. They also presented audio recordings from the Lexington County Detention Center where Freddie Grant was being held in which he is heard telling his daughter to handle items on a checklist.
During sentencing, U.S. District Court Cameron McGowan Currie said prosecutors presented credible evidence to suggest Freddie Grant pressured his daughter to lie for him in federal court.
But at Thursday’s bond hearing, Dominique Grant said is innocent, that she wouldn’t lie for her father if it meant losing her freedom. She also wants Gabrielle to be found, she said.
“If I have to lose my freedom to find out what happened to her, that’s OK,” she said.
Still, Elvia Swainson, who attended the bond hearing, said her daughter has been gone too long for someone to withhold information.
“I want my child here,” she said. “This is too long to have information about where my child is and to not come forward with it.”
Reach Price at (803) 771-8376.