Deer Hunter Finds Remains of Missing Man from 2021

LANCASTER, S.C. (CN2 NEWS) –  The Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office says the skeletal remains were found near Heath Springs was those of Thomas Edward Hannah, Jr. 59 who was first reported missing on November 21, 2021.

The Sheriff’s Department said deputies were dispatched to the Beaver Creek Road area around 10:30 am on Sunday, December 11 by a deer hunter tracking a deer who came across skeletal remains over a small area along with a shoe and clothing.

The report says, “Lancaster County Coroner Karla Deese believes Mr. Hannah’s medical conditions rendered him disoriented, and exposure to the elements and low temperatures led to his death.”

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Skeletal Remains Identified
 Skeletal remains found near Heath Springs Sunday, December 11, 2022, have been identified as those of Thomas Edward Hannah, Jr., 59, who had been missing since November 21, 2021.  Mr. Hannah was reported missing from his home on Kershaw Camden Highway in Heath Springs on that Sunday about 6:30 p. m. by a relative.  Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office deputies responded and began an extensive search for Mr. Hannah.  He had been seen earlier in the day on the railroad tracks in the area.  Elgin Fire and Rescue arrived, and a command post was established.  A K-9 unit from the Chester County Sheriff’s Office ran a trail north on the tracks until it was lost.  Elgin Fire and Rescue deployed a drone to search from overhead without success.

Mr. Hannah was entered into the national database as a missing person.  The South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) assisted in disseminating information to other law enforcement agencies and the public.  Over the next days and weeks investigators contacted many people with known connections to Mr. Hannah, but none had seen or heard from him since his disappearance.  Video surveillance footage from several sources was viewed.  Mr. Hannah’s telephone and bank records were examined. None of these efforts provided clues to his whereabouts.

Sunday, December 11, 2022, at about 10:30 a. m. deputies were dispatched to the area near 4708/4709 Beaver Creek Road, Heath Springs.  A deer hunter tracking a deer came across what appeared to be skeletal remains deep in the woods.  The area was secured.  Additional deputies, investigators, crime scene investigators, and Coroner Karla Deese and her personnel responded.  The area was thoroughly searched, and skeletal remains appearing to be human were found scattered over a relatively small area.  A shoe and clothing items were also recovered.  The remains were collected by the coroner and transported to the coroner’s office.

Coroner Deese and sheriff’s office crime scene investigators partnered with a K-9 team from Foothills Search and Rescue the following day to conduct a secondary search which produced no additional remains or evidence.   

 Those involved in the initial missing persons investigation and with the discovery of the skeletal remains suspected the remains were those of Mr. Hannah, but positive identification was necessary.  Coroner Deese obtained some of Mr. Hannah’s medical records and sent those along with the remains to Deputy Coroner Dr. William Stevens with the Richland County Coroner’s Office.  Dr. Stevens is a forensic anthropologist in the office of Coroner Naida Rutherford.  Dr. Stevens was able to positively identify the remains as those of Mr. Hannah by comparing them to a CT scan done some time ago.  Coroner Deese believes Mr. Hannah’s medical conditions rendered him disoriented, and exposure to the elements and low temperatures led to his death.

 Last Thursday investigators, a crime scene investigator, and Coroner Deese met with a relative of Mr. Hannah, presented their findings, and notified him that Mr. Hannah had been identified.

 “While we all hope for a different outcome when a loved one is missing, there is such relief in being able to locate a family’s loved one and provide closure for them,” said Coroner Deese.  “I am incredibly grateful for the forensic partnerships I have with all agencies involved.  These partnerships are pivotal in resolving cases for the citizens of Lancaster County.”

Sheriff Barry Faile also expressed appreciation for all those who participated in the search for Mr. Hannah and the recovery of his remains.  “Events such as this produce a multifaceted response.  Different agencies and organizations with different areas of expertise are called upon to make sure everything possible is done to locate a missing person.  We’re always disappointed when we don’t find the person alive and well.  We grieve with Mr. Hannah’s family but are thankful he was found and the family now has some answers.”

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