WOODRUFF, S.C. (WSPA) – For Jermaine West’s family, one week seems like an eternity without him.
“I know he [Jermaine] knows I’m looking, showing me signs and I’m going to find him,” said West’s mother Deloris Thompson.
Investigators say Marcus Todd shot and kidnapped West last Monday. Todd is behind bars on attempted murder and kidnapping charges. The SUV believed to have been used was later found in a wooded area.
“Not 100% sure the truck was there when we initially searched,” said Woodruff Police Chief Alan Bledsoe. “We also searched the area up to a thousand yards out from where the truck was with cadaver dogs and the dogs never alerted on the presence of any human remains anywhere around the area of that truck, which tells me the body was moved or was dropped somewhere else before that truck was placed before it was placed.”
Chief Bledsoe says the department’s limited resources, along with jurisdictions, and a massive potential search area have been challenges in this case.
“There are so many thousands and thousands of acres out here of wooded property, streams, lakes, creeks, gullies, ponds, rivers – there is no feasible way for a police department to go and just search all of that territory without having somewhere to start,” he said. “If you have viable information, please, please send it to us. We can use this information. But if it’s just something you overheard and you don’t know it doesn’t do us a whole lot of good.”
Bledsoe says they’re actively following leads – even one Tuesday near Arnold Branch Road that came up empty. “We went to look exactly where the psychic said to look at the bottom of an 80 foot dried up well.”
He said there’s also the issue of making sure permission is given to search a resident’s property.
“We also have to have consent from the property owner to be on their property. This maintains the chain of evidence if we were to find anything so that it would be admissible in court,” he said. “We have informed the family that we have no issue with them continuing to do their search. We have told them to please try to make sure to get the permission of property owners they decide to search. Failure to do that could result in a trespassing charge.”
Despite the challenges, he says they’ll continue trying to bring West home to his family.
“They expect us – as they should – to move heaven and earth to find their family member,” said Chief Bledsoe. “We are doing everything that we can possibly do to assist this family to find Jermaine.”
The Woodruff community expressing the same mentality, at a Tuesday prayer vigil, hosted by Woodruff Mayor Kenneth Gist.
“It was really touching to see everybody from the community all together,” said the victim’s girlfriend and mother of his children, Meredith Dale.
“This is our city, and I tell people we got to come together,” said Mayor Gist, who added that the entire community needs a special healing. “This is nothing new to me. I can tell you 20 deaths in the city in the last 20 years and it hasn’t brought calmness yet. I just think we got to pray.”
And pray they did as the community still deals with its most recent tragedy.
“We’re just still getting out searching,” said West’s Mom. “And, I always say every morning and every night I am not and will not stop looking for Jermaine.”
A $3,000 reward is being offered for answers in the case. The victim’s family also tells us they’ll continue their search efforts.