Although African Americans make up just 13 percent of the U.S. population, we account for 33 percent of the missing in the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s database. Cases involving African Americans also tend to receive less media coverage than missing Whites, with missing men of color getting even less attention.
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A family acquaintance who did yard work for the family of 15-year-old cheerleader Gabrielle Swainson has been arrested and charged with kidnapping, after police found blood and DNA from the South Carolina teen on duct tape near the man’s home.
Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott called 52-year-old Freddie Grant a “career criminal” in announcing the arrest, according to WACH Fox News in Columbia, S.C.
Authorities believe Grant forced the teen from her home in Columbia and took her to his home in Elgin, S.C. Authorities said Grant is being “completely uncooperative” in helping to locate the girl.
Swainson’s mother, Elvia Swainson, said she went to work at 3:30 a.m. on Aug. 18 and left her sleeping daughter at their home. When she returned at 7:30 a.m., the teen was missing and the alarm was going off. There were no signs of forced entry and all of Gabrielle’s belongings, including shoes, clothes, wallet, and cell phone were still at her home.
Authorities are still hoping that Swainson will be found alive. More than 100 0fficers have fanned out to search a junkyard near the suspect’s home.
“I haven’t given up hope of finding her and bringing her home. That’s what we’re operating under, that she can be found,” Lott said according to CBS News. “He’s only charged with kidnapping.”
Natalie Wilson, co-founder of the Black and Missing Foundation, said she was not surprised by the news.
“Statistics show that the majority of abducted children are taken by someone they know. It is our prayer that Gabrielle is found alive and led back safely to her family,” Wilson said in an interview with NewsOne.
Grant became a prime suspect early on when the convicted felon refused to cooperate with police interviewing family and friends while looking for leads in Gabrielle’s disappearance. A search of Grant’s home found bullets, which led to a federal weapons charge. And then police discovered the duct tape with Grant’s DNA, Gabrielle’s DNA and blood on it.
“The mother has been extremely strong,” said Lott, according to WACH Fox. “She is a Mother and she loves Gabbie. She surrounded her whole life around Gabbie…. She is very upset right now.”
Gabrielle’s disappearance is not the only one police suspect Grant may have been involved with. They are investigating whether Grant had a role in the disappearance of Adriana Laster who lived with him in Elgin for over a year. Elgin Police say the woman disappeared in September 2011 but was not reported missing until March 2012 by her grandmother.
Grant was convicted of a misdemeanor April 2011 charge of criminal domestic violence against Laster. He paid a fine for the charge.
Derrica Wilson, president and co-founder of the Black and Missing Foundation, said the Swainson case shows how difficult it is for parents, especially single parents, to find people they can trust around their children.
“You just have to be very careful. In this case, this guy is a convicted felon so understanding a person’s background and motives is important as is digging deep and asking questions,” Wilson told NewsOne in an interview. “Parents, especially single parents have to be careful with the people they bring around their children.”
Parents should also communicate regularly with their kids for clues about the people they are in contact with and any issues that might have arisen because of that contact.
“In so many cases we work it’s the people who know you who you are in contact with every single day that are involved. That’s why it’s so important to pay attention to your kids,” said Derrica Wilson.
If you have information regarding the whereabouts of Gabrielle Chloe Swainson, please contact the Richland County Sheriff’s Office at (803) 576-3187, CrimeStoppers at 1-888-Crime-SC or the Black and Missing Foundation’s confidential Tip Line.