Crime & Courts

Deathrow inmate leads police to remains

MYRTLE BEACH -- Shivering in Tuesday morning's damp cold, Jennifer Warner watched two dogs and six searchers make their way into a wooded area off Water Tower Road in the Wampee community.

Then Alice Donovan's younger daughter smiled and said she hopes the human remains found Saturday in that area would be those of her mother.

"I have not been out in those thickets and won't go. I just wanted to be here," Warner said Tuesday as she pointed toward the searchers who disappeared in the thick, brown brush. "Everybody is hoping that it is my mom, and we're hoping and praying it is her so we can put her to rest."

Police are awaiting DNA results to confirm Warner's suspicions.

The search centered on that area for remains of 44-year-old Donovan, who was kidnapped and murdered in November 2002 by Chadrick Fulks and Brandon Basham.

Both were convicted in 2004 during separate federal trials and were sentenced to die. They each await execution on death row in Terre Haute, Ind.

The men also face life sentences after they pleaded guilty in 2005 in West Virginia to a carjacking that resulted in the death and disappearance of 19-year-old Samantha Burns, whose body also has not been found.

The men escaped from a Kentucky prison on Nov. 4, 2002. Burns was kidnapped Nov. 11 outside a Huntington, W.Va., mall while Donovan was taken Nov. 14 from the Wal-Mart parking lot in Conway.

Angie Gilchrist, Donovan's older daughter, said she and her sister have been watching the search for their mother from the sidelines.

"I have to be here. I just have to because these people are searching for a lady they didn't even know. I need to be out here, cold and wet, to show them I believe in them and their search," Gilchrist said. "They're trying to make my dream come true to put her to rest. I thank them from the bottom of my heart for not letting my mother be forgotten."

Searchers from the FBI and Community United Effort group, a Wilmington, N.C., volunteer organization, used dogs to search the area again Tuesday for any evidence they may have missed during previous searches Jan. 18 and Saturday.

During those searches they found human bones in the area, said Monica Caison, founder of Community United Effort, an organization that searches for missing people. Tuesday was a last attempt to find as much of the remains as possible, Caison said.

"It's an attempt to get anything else of her that's out there, mainly for the family," Caison said. "If it is Alice, we've brought her home, but if it isn't her then we've brought someone else home. I'm confident it is, but we still have to go through the DNA process."

The recent searches began after Fulks sent a package to Caison that contained 24 color photos of the area with his scribblings on them, a map and letter detailing where she should look for Donovan's remains, Caison said.

Warner gave Caison a copy of a letter Fulks had written about her mother during a Community United Effort benefit they held in September in Donovan's memory, Warner said.

So Caison wrote to Fulks hoping for answers about where to find Donovan, Caison said.

Insufficient postage delayed Fulks' package for a month. Caison said she retrieved it from the post office on Jan. 17. The next day Caison had 40 volunteers and local police at the spot, and in the pouring rain they began their search using dogs and global positioning tracking devices to divide the area into sections.

"I mapped it out and started way beyond his information and deeper than where he said to look," Caison said. "I went quadruple the area just to be sure we searched it."

Around 2:45 p.m. Jan. 18, Caison said a searcher found a human skull. She knew they were in the right place.

On Saturday, searchers and police returned to the area again and found more bone fragments, all of which are being tested for DNA evidence, Caison said.

She's unsure why Fulks responded to her letter, which was roughly a paragraph long, that asked him to help her find Donovan for Warner and Gilchrist, Caison said.

"Why after all this time - six years - I don't know," Caison said.