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Netflix’s ‘Missing: Dead or Alive’ spotlights reality of missing persons cases in Richland County

The series follows investigators as they work through missing persons cases here in Richland County. Two days after its release, is trending internationally.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Eyes across the world are on the Richland County Sheriff's Department after Netflix released a four-part series called 'Missing: Dead or Alive,' featuring the department.

Netflix's new true crime docuseries, Missing: Dead or Alive offers a unique look at investigators working through missing persons cases, from start to finish.

"At the beginning, it was like you have a mic on and they're with you and you kinda have to step around them and do things," said Richland County Investigator Vicki Rains about getting accustomed to a camera crew following her around every day for a year. 

"Anywhere between two and four people with you all the time," Rains said. "You would have someone sort of directing what they wanted the camera crew to do and then you would have the person who was saying, 'This is what we need' and then you would have the camera crew. So there was actually multiple people with you."

Rains said the crews began to follow her shortly after she joined the missing persons unit in the fall of 2021 and remained with her through the fall of 2022. She said they were with her at work and even would film with her at home after a shift or on the weekend. 

"They filmed probably hundreds of hours, and we knew they were only going to make four 45-minute episodes," she said. "So, we had no idea what was going to be on the show."

According to Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott, the department and those involved did not receive any money from Netflix or the filmmakers, despite the show performing well. 

On Friday, Lott said he was told the docuseries was trending as the #2 most popular show on Netflix across numerous countries, including the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and South Africa. 

"I think the fact that they're showing our investigators at home, and not so much with the uniform on ... you know, take this uniform off, and they get to see a person, just like the viewers, someone they can relate to," Lott said.

Rains said it also gives viewers an opportunity to relate to the victims of these crimes and their families.

"So many people are connecting with the movie but in a different ... not necessarily the missing person, but the drug addiction or those other areas that it covers that we didn't even realize it was capturing at the time we were working on the cases."

Lott says there is the possibility for another season of the show as well as other series involving the sheriff's department.

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