Crime & Courts

Ex-husband arrested in death of missing Midlands woman found in shallow grave

James Lee Ginther
James Lee Ginther

The ex-husband of a Midlands woman, who was reported missing before her body was discovered last week, has been arrested and charged in her death, according to the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office and SLED.

James L. Ginther, 26, of Columbia, has been charged with kidnapping and murder, according to the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office.

The body of Suzette Ginther, 27, was discovered in a shallow grave in a wooded area off of Burnt Gin Road in Manchester State Forest Nov. 16.

“It was a crime of passion, we believe,” Sumter County Sheriff Anthony Dennis said.

James L. Ginther was arrested about 4:30 a.m. Monday by the Louisville (Ky.) Metro Police Department. He was stopped after being involved in a minor traffic accident, and when authorities ran his information.

The couple had two children, ages eight and six, but were legally divorced this year.

James L. Ginther will be extradited back to South Carolina as soon as possible.

A weapon was recovered from the vehicle in Kentucky, Dennis said. It hasn’t been determined to be the murder weapon yet, but it’s the same caliber as the one used in the killing.

GINTHER SUZETTE EILEEN
Suzette Ginther Sumter County Sheriff’s Office

Suzette Ginther was shot in the head, said Sumter County Coroner Robert Baker. She had been reported missing Nov. 16, according to the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office.

Her body was found by a hunter in Manchester State Forest near Camp Burnt Gin in a shallow grave.

Ken Bell, spokesman for the sheriff’s office, said law enforcement was fortunate that a hunter discovered Ginther’s body.

“The hunter saved us from having a missing person for months or years,” Bell said, noting the area where Ginther’s body was found is surrounded by swamps and near a sewage spillway.

The hunter had been in the remote area of the state forest looking for places to set up cameras, Bell said. He visited the area prior to Thursday and noticed a sizable hole had been dug up, something he said that had not been done by an animal.

When the hunter returned to set up the cameras on Thursday, he saw the hole had been covered over and notified law enforcement, Bell said. Ginther’s vehicle was also recovered near where her body was discovered, which is about five miles from her home, Bell said.

It’s possible that Ginther was alive when she was taken to where her body was discovered, and shot to death at that scene, Bell said. The spot where Ginther was found is about 150 yards from the end of a dirt road, and she might have been made to walk to the location rather than killed elsewhere and dumped in that spot.

She worked at the PetSmart on Garners Ferry Road, said Bell, adding concerned co-workers called Ginther’s live-in boyfriend when she failed to show up for work.

Her boyfriend then called law enforcement and reported her missing, Bell said. Ginther’s boyfriend is the last person who reported seeing her before her body was discovered.

“We would like to thank SLED, Louisville Metro Police and our own investigators, who all worked tirelessly to solve this brutal crime and apprehend the suspect,” said Sumter County Sheriff Anthony Dennis. “All of these agencies worked diligently together to make this arrest. We certainly appreciate all of their hard work to bring closure for this family.”

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