Dillon investigators say terrain, weather impacted search of car found in Little Pee Dee River

DILLON, SC (WBTW) – It has been nearly two weeks since Dillon County divers found the body of 30-year-old Jamal Smith in the trunk of a car in the Little Pee Dee River in the Little Rock community. Although investigators believe Smith was killed and placed into the trunk prior to the car being pushed into the water, many community members are questioning why rescue divers did not investigate the trunk during the first water search.

The Dillon County Sheriff’s Office arrested and charged both Christopher Green and Ervin Stanley with Smith’s murder. On Monday, Dillon County Sheriff Major Hulon briefed reporters regarding the case.

“It was very, very bad weather. It was a dangerous situation for our personnel, but at the same time it was a job that had to be done,” Hulon said.

Investigators stated in Monday’s press conference that Smith had been shot and placed into the trunk of the car at a separate location. However, questions still surround why, during the initial search of the car, the trunk wasn’t searched as well. Smith-Murder

According to the sheriff’s office, it is their protocol in cases like these to do a complete search, but due to terrain and other circumstance during the search, plans shifted. Captain Cliff Arnette with the Dillon County Sheriff’s Office said officials first wanted to attempt to find the registered owner of the car before continuing the water search.

“We were trying to make contact of the registered owner of that vehicle to try to help determine so we would know how far that we needed to go. Of course, we knew at that time that as long as that vehicle had been in the river and our divers getting there that the chances of survival would’ve been slim to none,” mentioned Captain Cliff Arnette.

Major Hulon says because rescuers had no information to go on regarding the car owner or how the vehicle arrived in the river, it was hard to decide what the next steps in the recovery efforts should have been.

“At the time you have to keep in mind that we didn’t know if this vehicle went into the water as a result of an accident, if this vehicle was intentionally put in the water. We didn’t know. All that still had to be determined,” Hulon explained.

News13 was able to speak with Smith’s mother, and although she declines to go on camera, she explained the family just wants closure on Smith’s murder.

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