COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Deputies said a Columbia teenager who was missing for more than three weeks was found dead Wednesday night in Lexington County.
Sanaa Amenhotep, who was just 15 years old, was last seen April 5 when she left her house in northeast Columbia with another teen girl and two males.
Officials say one person has been arrested and police are searching for another suspect.
Amenhotep’s body was found in a wooded area in the Leesville area off Rish Drive, the Lexington County Coroner’s Office said.
Investigators believe she was killed the night she disappeared and that her body had been there for weeks.
Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott said she likely left her home willingly, but that the situation then turned into a kidnapping that led to her murder.
Thursday afternoon, there were two Lexington County deputies still at the scene and a plot of land where her body was found was covered with a tarp.
“I can’t imagine what the family is going through,” Lexington County Coroner Margaret Fisher said with tears in her eyes and a shaky voice. “It was a very difficult scene for our office. We stayed most of the night processing and taking care of the family. Taking care of Sanaa.”
An autopsy is set for Friday and the coroner did not want to release Amenhotep’s cause of death until that was complete.
Lott said he and his deputies also became emotionally invested in the case.
“It is with great sadness that another young person has tragically lost their life,” Lott said. “Hug your kids and continue to lift the family in prayer.”
Amenhotep was a freshman at Richland Northeast High School. The superintendent of Richland Two sent the following letter to the school community:
Dear Richland Two Family,
Today we learned of the heartbreaking news of the death of Sanaa Amenhotep, the Richland Northeast High School ninth-grader who went missing earlier this month. We are deeply saddened by this tragic event and extend our heartfelt sympathy to those who love and care about Sanaa, especially her parents and family.
Many people have been affected by her disappearance and passing. Please know that counselors are available to help students and employees cope with their feelings about this tragedy.
There are no words to fully express this significance of this loss to our district family. With grieving hearts, we are united in our support of Sanaa’s family.
With deepest sympathy, Dr. Baron R. Davis, Superintendent
The pastor of Amenhotep’s church has organized a fundraiser for her family. Click or tap here to donate.
At the end of a news conference Thursday morning, Sheriff Lott said he believes there is gang-related activity in this case.
One suspect, 17-year-old Jaylon Wilson, was arrested in connection with the case on kidnapping charges Wednesday.
The sheriff says there is also a kidnapping warrant out on 18-year-old Treveon Jamar Nelson.
“I’m urging him to turn hisself (sic) in. He’s going to get caught,” Lott said. “He can’t run and hide. We’re going to find him.”
The Lexington County Sheriff’s Department will take charge of the investigation to find out who is responsible for Amenhotep’s murder, Lott said.
Anyone who knows where Nelson is or has other information about the case should contact police in Lexington County, Richland County, Cayce or West Columbia. Tips can also be submitted anonymously through Crime Stoppers by doing one of the following:
- CALL toll-free: 888-CRIME-SC (888-274-6372)
- Go to: www.midlandscrimestoppers.com
- Or download the P3 Tips App.
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