A battle is raging in the South Carolina Upstate between law enforcement and prosecutors over the alleged mishandling of a case involving a missing baby girl who – more than five years after her initial disappearance – has finally been confirmed as dead.
The Anderson county sheriff’s office – led by sheriff Chad McBride – issued a scathing statement on Wednesday slamming the office of S.C. tenth circuit solicitor David Wagner for compromising its investigation of suspects related to the case.
According to a release from the sheriff’s office, Wagner was “reckless and unorthodox” in announcing the issuance of arrest warrants in connection with the June 2015 disappearance of one-year-old Leonna Wright.
McBride’s office also rebuked Wagner for dragging his feet on the case – which it says was forwarded to the solicitor back in January.
“We are in somewhat disbelief that these actions have occurred as it is not normal standard procedure,” the sheriff’s statement continued. “The release of this information was done prematurely and can now potentially cause a flight risk of suspect(s) in this case. It also creates an officer safety risk for those involved in trying to apprehend the suspect(s).”
Wright was one-year-old when she was reported missing on June 6, 2015 from an apartment complex in Pendleton, S.C. Travis Devon Jones, 38, of Townville, S.C. has been charged with homicide by child abuse in connection with her disappearance.
He was booked on Wednesday at the Anderson county detention center and is awaiting a bond hearing.
STORY CONTINUES BELOW
Jones was named as a person of interest in Wright’s disappearance two years ago by McBride’s office.
Wagner issued his own statement earlier this week criticizing the sheriff’s office for making arrests in connection with the case.
“As a courtesy to the sheriff’s office I agreed to review the Leonna Wright case file prior to any charging decision being made,” Wagner said. “Unfortunately, the sheriff’s office has declined to return this courtesy by waiting until my review was complete prior to charging.”
Wagner said he could not speak to the “appropriateness of these charges until the full review process is finalized to ensure the high standards of evidence that we require for prosecution have been met.”
He added that as far as he is concerned, the investigation into Wright’s disappearance and murder is “open” and “ongoing.”
This news outlet has spoken with several sources who are close to this inquiry. We hope to have a follow-up report soon with additional information related to this case as well as the high-profile, public spat between sheriff and solicitor.
Stay tuned …
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