News 12 at First at Five / Monday, July 30, 2012
BEECH ISLAND, S.C. -- Wendell Baughman unwraps a painful memory.
"It's bad when all you got is your loved one in an evidence bag," said Wendell, as he removed the clear evidence bag from under several layers of plastic grocery bags. "And this is how I got my wife back."
The Aiken County Sheriff's Office says his wife, Melody, took her life a couple months ago. Deputies searched for her remains, but finally, Wendell found them himself behind his home.
"She was right in this area right here, and you can see the wire that sticks up at that block over there. That was the back corner of my mobile home right there," he said, estimating that distance was only about 100 feet. "It's hell on Earth. It's hell on Earth to have your loved one laying there and nobody even care how she died."
But the salt on Wendell's bleeding wounds was how Melody's personal items and jewelry were returned to him from the Aiken County Coroner's Office. They were in a bag marked as evidence.
"It still had decayed body matter and hair and things like that in her jewelry, and they handed it to me that way in the bag and said that they did the best they could with it," Wendell said.
What's supposed to be a bag with Melody's watch, necklaces, rings and other items is a bag that Wendell will probably never open. He says he can barely stand the sight of it, much less the overwhelming odor of decayed flesh.
Aiken County Coroner Tim Carlton isn't familiar with the specifics of this case, but he says his staff is told to clean personal items as thoroughly as possible and that he's confident they take that seriously.
Meanwhile, Wendell isn't left with much, mainly just pain, he says.
"This is all I have left of my loved one, and I think Aiken County dropped the ball," he said.
Wendell says he does not believe the search was as intensive as it should have been. The Aiken County Sheriff's Office says it used all resources possible.
Cpt. Troy Elwell says it is unfortunate they could not find her body during the search. He says the outcome is unfortunate, too.
Wendell says, right now, he just can not bring himself to open the bag of Melody's personal items. He says it is too painful. In fact -- he tells News 12 he is now seeing a psychiatrist.
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