Leaphart murder investigation continues; family reacts

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News 12 First at Five, January 25, 2008

AIKEN and LEXINGTON CTY, S.C. --- One more person has been arrested and two people face additional charges in the Jeremy Leaphart murder investigation.

Late this afternoon, Aiken County Investigators say they arrested 16-year-old John Oakman Junior. He is charged with kidnapping and murder, and will be tried as an adult.

In Lexington County, Investigators have now charged previously arrested Andre Norris with kidnapping and murder. They also have charged Darrell Williams with accessory after the fact murder along with his previous charge of kidnapping. All this after the body of 20-year-old Jeremy Leaphart was found under a pile of debris.

Jeremy's family says he may have been in trouble a couple of times, but he didn't deserve this: to go missing for almost a month and end up dead.

"Jeremy was always here. Christmas Eve came. Christmas Day came and he wasn't here. And we knew something was wrong. Just knew something wasn't right," says family member Martha Rudd.

Their fears becoming reality on Tuesday when Jeremy was found dead on Dozier Road in Batesburg.

"You couldn't help to love Jeremy, and he did not deserve any of this," says Martha.

Investigators say Jeremy was given 4 or 5 assault rifles from people who knew him.

"Apparently, they thought he lived near a safe, calmer environment than where they lived," says Lt. Michael Frank with the ACSO.

But the rifles were apparently stolen from Jeremy. On Christmas Eve, Jeremy left his home in Batesburg. Within 2 hours, investigators say Jeremy called his aunt twice. The first time saying, "They want $5,000 or they're going to kill me." The second saying, "They'll take $2,500."

"They didn't tell us when they the money or how they want the money. That's what gets us," says Jeremy's half brother Stacey Poole.

"I told them they need to call right then, 911 because something was definitely wrong. That was not like Jeremy," says Martha.

But they didn't call until December 26th. And earlier this week, Investigators learned Leaphart was killed on Hutto Pond Road in Aiken County.

"He might have done some bad things growing up, but.. he was always there for you," says Stacey.

His record: 8 misdemeanors and 4 felony charges.

The hardest part of all of this...

"He ain't going to be coming back. He ain't coming back no more. He ain't coming through that door no more," says Stacey.

Three people were arrested earlier this week. Frankie Gantt is charged with kidnapping and murder. Ronnie Bowers Junior and Sheldon Oakman is charged with accessory after the fact murder.

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