Dental records were used to identify the body found in Francis Marion Forest Friday as that of 30-year-old Dara Watson of Mount Pleasant, authorities said today.
Her former fiance, David Hedrick, shot her to death on Feb. 6 or 7, in a home the couple shared, took her to the woods where he buried her in a shallow grave, then torched her sport utility vehicle, Mount Pleasant Police Chief Harry Sewell said.
She was buried in a shallow grave, about 60 yards from the burned vehicle, which is where her body was found Friday.
Charleston County Coroner Rae Wooten said the cause of death was a single gunshot wound to the head.
Sewell said there was evidence that Hedrick was planning to leave town after having shot Watson. On his computer, for example, a resignation letter was found. But he killed himself with a handgun on Friday after having been questioned by police about Watson's disappearance.
The weeklong search for Watson ended Friday when crews scouring the Francis Marion National Forest discovered her body.
The body was found among tall pines near where Watson's sport utility vehicle was found badly burned on Feb. 7.
Hedrick, 34, fatally shot himself in the head Feb. 10 in the North Creek Drive home the couple shared. Watson reportedly had called off the wedding they had planned.
Watson was last reported seen Feb. 6, when she left her mother's residence in Boone, N.C., heading back to Mount Pleasant.
Text messages sent from her phone on Feb. 8 stated that everything was fine, but authorities later said later they think Hedrick sent those messages to deceive Watson's family and employer.
Watson's cellphone was found Thursday in one of several small ponds near the North Creek Drive home.
Police said witnesses recalled seeing Hedrick walk out of the forest carrying a shovel and hitch a ride home, days before the search for Watson began.
According to their friends, Watson and Hedrick began dating in April 2008 and became engaged last month.
Hedrick served as president and CEO of Daniel-Island-based bail bond company Palmetto Surety Corp., and Watson worked as an accountant for Verge Solutions in Mount Pleasant.
More than 80 volunteers from 10 law enforcement and volunteer rescue squads joined in the searches for Watson.
-Edward C. Fennell and Allyson Bird contributed to this report.
Richland authorities seek robbery suspects
Richland County authorities are seeking several men suspected of armed robbery in the past month, according to news releases issued Saturday.
Two men robbed convenience stores/gas stations, one at 5901 Monticello Road the night of Jan. 31 and another at 7501 Two Notch Road early the next morning, the Sheriff’s Department said. In each case, the suspects took an undisclosed amount of cash. One of the men is believed to have an arm with a physical disability. They were believed to be driving a gray, four-door vehicle.
In another case, Richland County authorities are trying to locate a man who held up a woman while she was sitting in her car in the Farrow Road area Feb. 8 at about 6:30 p.m. The suspect took $200 and other items.
People with information are asked to contact CrimeStoppers. Call, email or text 1-888-CRIME-SC or www.midlands crimestoppers.com.
15 charged with student loan fraud
Fifteen people in the Charleston area have been indicted on charges that they took out more than $400,000 in student loans while never planning to attend college.
The defendants face charges of mail fraud, wire fraud and financial aid fraud in indictments handed down Friday, according to The (Charleston) Post and Courier.
The indictments say the scam began in 2006 and involved online classes at the University of Phoenix, Grand Canyon University and Capella University.
Student loans go directly to the schools, but once tuition and fees are deducted, the balance is passed on to students. The indictment says checks ranging from $219 to about $4,700 were mailed to people in North Charleston, Walterboro, Green Pond, Ruffin, Fairfax, Yemassee and Cottageville.
-The Associated Press