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Crime & Courts

More than 40 years after their bodies were found, victims of SC cold case identified


It’s one of the oldest cold cases in Sumter County, South Carolina. Two bodies found by an interstate in the 1970s.

On Thursday, investigators announced a break in the case. Sumter County Sheriff’s Office said it discovered the likely identities of the victims after more than 44 years of being Jane and John Doe.

In a statement, the office identified the victims as Pamela Mae Buckley and James Paul Freund. The families of the victims have been contacted, according to the office.

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On Aug. 9, 1976, a truck driver discovered the bodies on Old St John Church Road in Lynchburg, SC just off of Interstate 95, the office said. Both victims were shot in the back of the head, the Sumter County Coroner said.

The sheriff’s office and other authorities put out photos and renderings of the man and woman for identification at the time. They had no success.

In 2007, former Sumter County Coroner Verna Moore exhumed the bodies and took DNA samples to try again to identify the victims. Investigators began working with Matt McDaniel, a Clemson resident interested in the case, the office said. He suggested in 2019 that investigators reach out to DNA Doe Project, an organizations that uses genetic genealogy to identify John and Jane Does.

McDaniel said that he spent eight years trying to get answers about who these people were and what happened to them. He shared a list of potential suspects over that time to investigators.

“Hopefully justice will be served for Jim and Pamela,” McDaniel said.

In June 2019, investigators sent DNA samples to DNA Doe Project, the office said. In July 2020, they sent more DNA to California and Alabama for extraction and comparison.

Now those efforts have produced a match, ending the 44-year-old mystery.

Buckley was born in 1951 and was from Minnesota, the office said. She was last seen in and reported missing from Colorado Springs in December 1975. Freund was born in 1946 and was last seen in the Lancaster, Pennsylvania area in December 1975. No one appears to have reported him missing, according to the office. Buckley was 25 years old and Freund 30 when they were killed.

“It’s great to be able to bring the families some closure after starting this investigation so many years ago,” Sheriff Anthony Dennis said. “We also plan to reopen the investigation and follow up with a person of interest.”

Dennis said the case has always been a priority and investigators have worked “tirelessly to solve this case.”

There are still people in of interest in the case, Dennis said.

The sheriff office called the the identification “likely positive.” DNA can be extremely accurate but further investigations will have to be done, such as speaking with family members, to confirm the identities.

The sheriff’s office asked anyone with information on the case to contact it at 803-436-2000 or Crime Stoppers at 888-274-6372.

This story was originally published January 21, 2021 4:28 PM.

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