Sheriff says he's '100 percent' confident his officers arrested the right suspect in the killing of 18-year-old Briana Rabon
Kershaw County, SC (WLTX) - Kershaw County Sheriff Jim Matthews says his investigators have no motive yet the killing of an 18-year-old woman this week.
Matthews updated the public at a Saturday morning news conference on the probe into the death of Briana Rabon.
A suspect in her killing, 21-year-old Stephen Ross Kelly, was arrested Friday night. He's charged with murder, kidnapping, and first-degree criminal sexual conduct.
"This has been a tough week for Kershaw County, but yesterday, things took a turn for the better," Matthews said.
Rabon was found dead by a group of kids riding ATVs in a wooded area near Haig's Creek Subdivision Wednesday afternoon. Kershaw County Coroner Johnny Fellers said Friday the woman had been strangled. Based on evidence, Matthews says he believes Rabon was likely killed Tuesday evening.
Matthews says the girl's mother reported her missing earlier in the day Wednesday.
For almost seven hours after the discovery of her body, deputies and State Law Enforcement Division agents processed the crime scene looking for clues. Based on a vehicle description provided by her mother, officers were able to find Rabon's red Ford Echo at a Waffle House on Highway 601. Investigators also processed that vehicle for evidence.
Initially, Matthews said his officers thought they'd developed a person of interest based on images from a surveillance video at the Waffle House, but he said that lead turned out to be false. However, other video taken from a gas station next to the restaurant, plus video from the neighborhood near where her body was found, led them to identify a vehicle that likely was involved. When they tracked down the car, that led them to Kelly.
Officers asked Kelly to come to the sheriff's office for questioning Friday, and they say he willingly agreed. During questioning, however, Matthews says the suspect's account of his whereabouts changed several times, and the suspect eventually stopped talking and asked for a lawyer. Matthews said he did admit to being with Rabon hours before the killing.
SLED forensics experts processed Kelly's vehicle, and say they found "considerable" evidence linking him to the crime scene. Matthews, though, says it's still not known if Rabon died at the wooded area, since they haven't found evidence of a struggle.
He also said the victim and the suspect were only acquaintances, and it's unclear why he would have wanted to kill her.
Officers are working to get DNA evidence from Kelly, and have reviewed social media posts made before the killings. But Matthews said he's "100 percent" confident they have the right suspect.
"I wouldn't want to be in his shoes," the sheriff said.
Matthews also revealed that Kelly had been arrested last year on a criminal domestic violence assault charge on claims that he beat up another woman.
The sheriff credits the teamwork from his officers, SLED, the Richland County Sheriff's Department, and the FBI for making this arrest. He said Rabon's family was relieved to hear the news of the arrest.
"They lost a daughter, a sister, taken needlessly from a cruel act," Matthews said.
A bond hearing date for Kelly has not been announced.
Meanwhile, the funeral for Rabon, a 2013 Lugoff-Elgin High graduate, will be held Sunday in Ridgeway.