Overview of Shelton Sanders
Shelton Sanders was a University of South Carolina student with big ambitions, countless dreams, and his whole life ahead of him.
Shelton was studying Administrative Information Management and was working part time as a computer programmer for USC’s Neuropsychiatry Department in the School of Medicine, at the time of his disappearance. He had big dreams of owning his own consulting business as a computer programmer. He was looking forward to getting married, having children of his own, and even raising cattle, according to his sister.
“My goals are to finish college and receive a degree in Administrative Information Management. Beyond college, I would like to work for a company for three years, then I would like to start and run my own computer company.” - Taken from Shelton’s personal website.
Shelton was a high-achieving student and a hard-worker with a bright future ahead of him. He was described by family members as being incredibly intelligent and never complaining about the requirements of his studies and job. He was a family man at heart, always prioritizing his family over everything else.
“He was a super young man. He was smart, intelligent, willing and able to work. Did not complain. He was very involved in his family. He made us proud.” - William Sanders, Shelton’s father.
Shelton was last seen on June 19, 2001 in Columbia, SC.
On the evening of June 19, 2001, Shelton traveled from his family’s home in Rembert, SC to Columbia, SC where he attended a full day of classes and work. Afterwards, he stayed later than usual to work on planning details for a friend’s upcoming bachelor party. He last spoke with his parents between 8:00-9:00 pm, when he let them know he would be home later than usual, and that he would be leaving shortly.
Around 9:30 pm, he went to Wellesley Inn and Suites before going to an Embassy Suites hotel in downtown Columbia, SC to inquire about pricing for the bachelor party. He reportedly went to the hotels with his friend and former college roommate, Mark Richardson. After looking at hotels, the pair reportedly went to Mark’s home on Olympia Avenue in Columbia, SC to finish working out some details for the party. This is Shelton’s last known location.
A neighbor reported hearing gunshots sometime before midnight.
One of Mark’s neighbors reported hearing three gunshots coming from the direction of Mark’s home shortly before midnight. When he walked over to see what happened, Mark reportedly told him that his car was backfiring. Shelton was reported missing three days later, on June 22, 2001.
Shelton’s car was found nearly two years later.
On April 26, 2003, the car Shelton was driving on the night of his disappearance, his brother’s white 1988 Oldsmobile Regency, was found in the parking lot of the Greenbrier Apartment complex in Columbia, SC. The car was found abandoned, backed into a parking spot. Authorities quickly determined that the car had been in the parking lot since his disappearance. According to authorities, cell phone records show that shortly after midnight, Richardson drove to the Greenbrier apartment complex in Columbia, SC, leading them to believe that he had taken the car there on the night of Shelton’s disappearance in an effort to hide it.
“Last person with him. Gunshots were heard at his house by a credible witness. The vehicle that [Shelton] was last seen in was actually found right next to where we were able to triangulate Mark Richardson’s cell phone records.” - Walter McDaniels, former lead investigator.
In 2005, Richardson was arrested for Shelton’s murder and his trial began in 2008. On October 5, 2005, Mark Richardson was arrested and charged with Shelton’s murder, despite his body not being found. His bond was set at $100,000. While being interviewed by investigators prior to his trial, Richardson reportedly asked the following questions: “Let me ask you a hypothetical question? Is there such a thing as an accidental death in the state of South Carolina?” and After he was told he’d be given the opportunity to explain, Richardson also asked, “How can I explain getting rid of a body?”.
Richardson’s trial began on April 14, 2008 at the Sumter County Courthouse in Sumter, SC. By April 21, 2008, when the jury went in for deliberations, they were unable to reach a verdict. Seven jurors reportedly voted Richardson guilty, while the remaining five voted him not guilty. Due to this, his trial not only ended in a hung jury, but the judge declared a mistrial. Richardson was released shortly after and Shelton’s case has seen no resolution since.
“Through the initial investigation, they were able to gather enough evidence to determine that it was a homicide, and the homicide, it’s gone cold. It was turned over to cold cases this year. We’re following up on things that are already there, that people are coming forward about and we’re hoping that events like today will kind of inspire people to think about what’s going on, how this has impacted the family in the last 20 years.” - Richland County Sheriff's Office Senior Investigator, Dottie Cronise.
Where the case stands today.
In 2018, Shelton’s sister, Wilveria, launched the ‘Finding Shelton Sanders’ Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages. Ever since, she has stepped up to the role of being Shelton’s advocate. In the following years, the reward for information increased from $10,000 to $25,000 to $50,000, where it sits today. Billboards have been erected across Columbia, SC, urging the public to come forward with information that would lead to Shelton’s whereabouts or bring justice to his family.
“We’ve forgiven anyone who’s had any dealings with the murder or disappearance of my brother. We just want to bring him home to a proper burial spot, where he belongs.” - Wilveria Sanders, Shelton’s sister.
At the time of his disappearance in 2001, Shelton was described as a 25 year old African-Americn man with black hair and brown eyes. He was 6’1” tall and weighed approximately 225 lbs. Shelton was last seen wearing a short-sleeved button-down shirt, khaki pants, and a Movado watch with a stainless steel band and a black face with diamonds.
“We will never give up. We will keep going until all searches are completed, no stone left unturned.” - Shelton’s sister, Wilveria Sanders.
If you have any information, please contact the Richland County Sheriff's Department - Cold Case Unit at (803) 576-3000 or Crime Stoppers of the Midlands at (888) CRIME-SC (274-6372). There is currently a $50,000 reward being offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the individual(s) responsible for Shelton’s disappearance.