On Tuesday, the news that much of Beaufort County — and the nation — feared most arrived: 18-year-old Malik Spencer, missing since Dec. 18, was dead.
It was not the outcome they had been praying and hoping for.
Lineman found his body in brush off U.S. 78 in Bamberg County on Jan. 22, a Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office news release says.
The autopsy performed in Newberry determined he died from gunshot wounds, the news release said. The manner of death was ruled a homicide, the release said.
When DNA from the body was submitted to a database, it matched Spencer’s DNA profile, the release said. The Sheriff’s Office Forensic Services Laboratory confirmed the match.
For more than a month, strangers have rallied around bringing the teen home, as his parents publicly pleaded for any information about his disappearance.
Spencer, 18, was found about an hour away from his Lobeco home — where he was last seen by his mother, Michelle Spencer-Ransom.
On that December day, a week before Christmas, Michelle was headed to work and Malik to class at Whale Branch Early High School.
He never made it to class. He also never made it home.
Michelle and her husband, Heyward, reported him missing to the Sheriff’s Office at 3 a.m. on Dec. 19.
The response from the Beaufort County community was immediate. Facebook posts were shared across the country. National missing person organizations responded with their own posts.
With each story, more and more people offered their prayers.
Readers connected to Malik through details of his life — his participation at Love House Ministries Church, a job at Wendy’s and his favorite basketball team, the Golden State Warriors.
More than 100 Facebook comments were left on an Island Packet and Beaufort Gazette story just hours after news of his death broke Tuesday afternoon.
“I do not know the family but I certainly prayed for this young man as if he were my son,” one person commented. “Praying now for peace, comfort and strength for his family for the days ahead.”
On Dec. 21, three days after he was reported missing, Spencer’s car was found abandoned in a rural area of St. Helena Island near Fort Fremont. Local police said Dec. 27 they believe foul play was involved in Spencer’s disappearance.
Sheriff’s Office Capt. Bob Bromage said the family was notified last week.
“It is horrible that a young man’s life is cut short,” Bromage said Tuesday. “Our prayers and thoughts are with the family. We intend on investigating the case and bring those responsible to justice.”
The case is now a joint investigation between the Sheriff’s Office and the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, Bromage said.
Anyone with information related to the investigation can call investigator Brian Abell at 843-255-3436 or Crimestoppers of the Lowcountry at 843-554-1111.
A sense of pride has always poured from Michelle when talking about her son for articles in the past month.
“My son just turned 18, but he had such a big impact on so many people,” Michelle said previously. “That is a big deal to say about someone who is 18.”