ORANGEBURG, S.C. — A search for a missing child that began in Orangeburg County has ended in Virginia with the child safe and her father in custody.

Sheriff Leroy Ravenell said that 5-year-old Aspen Jeter had been found in Danville, Virginia and her father has since been charged with the murder of the child's mother.

Aspen's disappearance was first realized on Thanksgiving Day during a welfare check by Orangeburg County deputies after reports that neither the child nor her mother, 46-year-old Crystal Jumper, had been seen in months. They made entry and found her mother dead of a gunshot wound but the child was nowhere to be found.

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The search quickly expanded to include the child's father, Antar Antonio Jeter, as well. At one point, authorities believed they had spotted them both in a department store parking lot in Fayetteville, North Carolina.

But it was a set of unspecified "transactions" that led the search further north. 

With help from local police and the U.S. Marshals, the journey finally came to an end in a hospital parking lot in Danville where Antar was arrested and Aspen was recovered. The mission now, according to the sheriff, is to bring the child home.

And Justin Bamberg, who is serving as the attorney for some members of Aspen's family, said that he and others are determined to make sure that the child does not become a "ward of the state."

Meanwhile, the sheriff described the end of the search for Aspen as being like getting his "Christmas present early."