SUMTER COUNTY, S.C. — After more than 40 years, a Sumter County murder mystery will soon be revealed.
It’s the story of a young man and woman. Deputies say they were hitchhikers, but were found shot to death along I-95 in August of 1976.
Jean Graham said her father Ira Byrd Parnell was sheriff at the time of the investigation. He’s since passed, but the mystery stayed with her family.
“Daddy didn’t bring his work home with him, but on certain cases you knew that his heart hurt, and I knew his heart hurt for these two young people,” Graham said. “It was very shocking for something like that to happen here in Sumter. It was almost unfathomable… and you just wondered why and who.”
To honor them, she said, her father pushed to have the two buried at their family church, Bethel United Methodist in Oswego.
“He just wanted closure for them even though he knew that their families didn’t have it," Graham said. "Maybe their souls could rest in peace."
According to current Sumter County Sheriff Anthony Dennis, they’ve now been able to identify the two with bone marrow samples helping in the case.
Family members of both victims have also been notified.
“I know daddy’s happy that this is resolved and I am too,” Graham said.
Bethel Pastor James Whited added that he’s happy the family can get closure and is hoping they’ll be connected again.
“This was what this church felt like needed to be done for these people and they are welcome here, but if families want them home, they’re welcome to go,” Whited said.
Sumter County investigators are expected to hold a press conference January 21 at 2:00p revealing their identities.