One year has passed since a Woodruff man was shot four times, dragged into a car and dumped at an unknown location.
Jermaine West is presumed dead. But his family can’t rest until they find his body, said his mother, Deloris Thompson.
“He’s out there somewhere,” she said.
Family, friends and neighbors have searched wells, streams, culverts, pastures and forests as far as Columbia in an ongoing effort to find closure and justice.
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Marcus Quante Todd, 20, of Woodruff, is charged with attempted murder and kidnapping in West’s case.
Authorities did find Todd’s abandoned vehicle, and he was named a suspect. Soon after, Todd turned himself in.
Prosecutors said at the time of the arrest that Todd would not tell them where West’s body was located.
West was shot May 23, 2016, in front of a group of relatives on Woodruff Street. Authorities said Todd pulled up to the gathering, got in front of West and started shooting.
On the one-year anniversary of the shooting, family members lit candles and sent a lantern into the sky.
Phone calls seeking comment from Todd’s attorney were not returned.
The 7th Circuit Solicitor’s Office also would not discuss the case.
“Attempted murder and kidnapping charges are still pending. I can’t comment on the details of an ongoing investigation,” spokesman Murray Glenn said in an email.
The State Law Enforcement Division has been assisting the Woodruff Police Department by providing agents and laboratory services for the investigation, SLED spokesman Thom Berry said.
Interim Woodruff Police Chief Todd Hendrix said no new leads have surfaced.
“We are still very actively working that case to try and locate Mr. West to give the family some closer,” Hendrix said. “Unfortunately, we do not have any new leads on the location of Mr. West at this time, but we ask if anyone has information to contact the Woodruff Police Department.”
West was 29 years old when he was shot.
He left behind six children, some of whom have joined search parties. A bicycle with training wheels and several toy cars lie in Thompson’s front yard for the children to play with when they visit their grandmother.
“I just want closure, that’s all, to have a place where we can come and go and visit and for the children to visit him when they get older,” Thompson said. “After he was shot, I didn’t get to be with him to say, ‘Hold on, it’s going to be alright. If you pass away, it’s heaven. It’s going to be alright.’ I didn’t get that and that’s the most hurtful thing.”
Between searching and working two jobs, Thompson is creating scrapbooks with photos of West for each of her grandchildren so they can know what he looked like and who he was.
“They’ll say, ‘Don’t cry. He’s alright. He’s in heaven, and heaven is a good place. We want to go to heaven where our dad’s at,’” Thompson said. “It kills me.”
Thompson said she is hoping that more people will take the time to check their own properties to see if West’s body was dumped there.
Search efforts often involve rakes that are drug on the ground in case West was put into a box underground or underneath a covering.
Thompson said she encourages those who want to get involved to reach her at 864-607-1314.
“We’ve had search teams, dive teams, psychics. I appreciate every search party and everyone who’s come out,” Thompson said. “Whatever you can do to help, just find my child. … We’re going to bring him home.”