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Family searching for missing South Carolina man's remains 19 years later

USC student Shelton Sanders disappeared 19 years ago and is presumed dead.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Nineteen years after his disappearance, Shelton Sanders’ family is still searching for answers. The 25-year-old USC student went missing in 2001 and is presumed dead but his body has never been found. 

"I’m not going to stop until I find my brother's body," Wilveria Sanders said. "I’m just asking for someone to give us the remains. We’re not looking for anything else out of this, we just want his body, they can remain anonymous."

Sanders went missing on June 19th, 2001. He lived with his family in their Rembert home and commuted to Columbia daily for work and to attend USC.

Sanders’ mom, Peggy, said he called her around 8:30 that night to tell her he’d be coming home late, which was nothing out of the normal. But he never showed up.

"I miss him so much," said Peggy. "And it was so heartbreaking when we learned about his disappearance. It was unbearable, I just lost it."

Sanders’ car went missing the same night he did, and investigators found it two years later, in 2003, at a Columbia apartment. Evidence showed it had been there since his disappearance.

Credit: The Sanders Family

When the car was found, Sumter County handed the case over to the Richland County Sheriff's Department. Sergeant Walter McDaniels, the investigator on the case, believes one of Sanders' friends is responsible for his death.

"There is absolutely no doubt, from our stand point, that this victim, Shelton Sanders, found his demise by way of his friend Mark Richardson," McDaniels said.

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Mark Richardson was the last person Sanders was seen with. McDaniels said the night of his disappearance, Richardson’s neighbor heard three gun shots from his home. According to reports, the neighbor went over to Richardson's to see what happened, but Richardson told him his car was back-firing.

Later in the investigation, police also located Richardson’s cell phone to the same place Sanders’ car was taken that night.

McDaniels told News19 that Richardson's story was inconsistent. "He said to me during our interview, 'how do I explain getting rid of a body?'" 

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McDaniels recalled, "I told [Richardson], the Sanders just wanted their son back, the remains of their son. At the time, he then put his head down and said, 'I can’t do that. I went to [their] house acting like I was going to help them.'"

Richardson was charged with Sanders’ killing in 2005. But there was a hung jury - eight to four, guilty - so he was never convicted.

Credit: The Sanders Family

Wilveria explained her family just wants closure from the ordeal. "My brother being in a proper burial spot will bring more closure to us. So right now, I’m just trying to find his remains so he can be closer to us," Wilveria said.

William Sanders, Shelton's father, re-enforced that they're not seeking vengeance or justice, he simply wants to bring his son home. "We're a Christian, forgiving family," he said.

The Sanders have now upped their reward to $25,000 for anyone that has accurate information on where to find his body. If you have any information on where Shelton Sanders remains are, you’re asked to call the Richland County Sheriff’s Department or the Shelton Sanders tip line at 803-427-4209.

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