Beaufort News

Hampton authorities join investigation of body discovered Monday

Hampton authorities and the S.C. Law Enforcement Division think a body discovered Monday in Beaufort County waters might be that of a woman reported missing last week.

Autopsy results for a woman found on a mud flat close to where Archer's Creek meets the Broad River are expected Wednesday, according to Coroner Ed Allen.

Neither the woman's identity nor a cause of death has been determined, but Hampton Police Chief Perry McAlhaney said his department is investigating whether the discovery is related to the disappearance Wednesday of 34-year-old Masako Yamaguchi Miller.

She was last seen at about 11 p.m. at her home on Middle Street in Hampton, McAlhaney said. She is described as a Japanese American with brown hair and eyes and about 5-feet-2. Miller has three children and had been working at Scotsman Ice Systems, he said.

No arrests have been made in her connection with her case, however, the 32-year-old father of two of her children faces misdemeanor charges after investigators found him with some of her possessions, McAlhaney said. He said the man has not been identified as a suspect or person of interest in Miller's disappearance.

The man, who was charged with financial transaction card fraud, was being held Tuesday at the Hampton County Detention Center, according to jail records. Bond was set at $30,000, records show. The body was found by a fisherman at about 8:30 a.m. Monday near Parris Island, Allen said. Results from an autopsy Tuesday at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston are still pending, he said.

Allen did not know the woman's age or how long she had been in the water.

Her death did not appear to be "maritime-related," said Operations Specialist 1st Class Mike Comess of the U.S. Coast Guard, which assisted in the investigation. He would not elaborate on the condition of the body.

Beaufort Water Search and Rescue volunteers responded at about 8:45 a.m., squad spokesman Dick Jennings said. He said the fisherman could spot the body because it was on a mud flat and the tide had begun to go out.

"She was lying above the water line," Jennings said. "We launched three boats and found her almost immediately."

Volunteer crews assisted by ferrying the coroner and other investigators to the scene, he said.

Beaufort County sheriff's investigators expect to receive preliminary results today that will determine the woman's identity and the cause of death, Capt. Bob Bromage said.

"If it is in fact (Miller), we will work in cooperation with any other agencies involved," he said.

Family and friends of Miller told Hampton police she would not have left the area.

"It's not like her," McAlhaney said. "Her friends, family and co-workers say she would have never missed work or left her children like that."