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March 4, 2013

Richland County jail guard charged with murder in Eastover burning body case

A 23-year-old jail guard has been arrested for allegedly shooting his pregnant girlfriend and then burning her body in woods near Eastover.

A 23-year-old jail guard has been arrested for allegedly shooting his pregnant girlfriend and then burning her body in woods near Eastover.

Tristan Gist, a former detention officer at Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center, is charged with murder and death or injury of a child in utero due to the commission of a violent crime, the Richland County Sheriff’s Department reported Monday. Gist was fired from the detention center over the weekend when he did not show up to work, according to a spokesman in the Richland County public information office.

Gist is being held at the Lexington County Detention Center. He must appear before a Richland County circuit court judge for a bond hearing.

The victim has been tentatively identified as Dierra Fisher, 22, of Columbia, said Richland County Coroner Gary Watts. He said he was 99.9 percent sure Fisher was the victim but was waiting on medical records to be certain.

Gist is accused of shooting Fisher once in the head and then driving her body to woods off Screaming Eagle Road Extension, east of Fort Jackson, and then burning her.

Gist brought Fisher’s two small children with him in the car as he drove to burn her body, said Sheriff Leon Lott.

“It’s probably one of the more vicious crimes I’ve seen,” Lott said. “I keep saying that over and over. When I don’t think I can see worse, something like this happens.”

Firefighters responding to a brush fire in the 3800 block of Screaming Eagle Extension Thursday afternoon discovered the burning body in the woods. The victim was burned so badly that the firefighters who discovered the burning body could not identify the gender.

An autopsy determined the victim was a woman who was about five months pregnant. She died from a single gunshot to the head, Watts said.

But Watts had not been able to identify the woman until sheriff’s deputies arrested Gist Monday afternoon.

It was unknown Monday who took custody of the two children who rode in the car with Gist, said Deputy Curtis Wilson, a sheriff’s department spokesman.

Gist was the father of one of the children, according to reports. It has not been determined whether Gist was the father of Fisher’s unborn baby.

No one had reported Fisher missing or called the coroner’s office about the victim when the burning was first reported, he said. She has family in Orangeburg, New Jersey and Kansas, and those relatives have been notified.

Investigators received a tip Monday morning from someone in the community that Gist might be a suspect in the shooting and burning. From there, the investigation progressed quickly, Lott said.

Several officers went to Gist’s home to make the arrest, and he was apprehended without incident.

Gist admitted to the shooting death and burning, Lott said.

Gist has no prior criminal record, according to a rap sheet from the State Law Enforcement Division. He was hired at the detention center on May 14, 2012, according to a county spokesman. Other details about Gist’s employment, including his certification as a jail guard and his educational history, were not available Monday.

Fisher’s killing was the third deadly incident of domestic violence in the past week in Richland County.

On Feb. 25, Percy Williams, 31, was charged with murder after he allegedly shot and killed his girlfriend, Tabatha Priester, 35, the sheriff’s department reported.

On Feb. 26, 28-year-old Adam Jurgen died in a hail of gunfire after he got into a shootout with sheriff’s deputies who were searching for him after he allegedly beat his girlfriend.

Reporter R. Darren Price contributed.

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