Facebook Pixel
Stay on top of all things cold cases, advocacy, and true crime with our twice per week newsletter

Charleston, South Carolina Cold Cases

Charleston, South Carolina is a stunning city with a rich history and a unique blend of modern and antebellum architecture and Southern hospitality. Unfortunately, the city's past conceals a shadowy underbelly despite its lovely appearance. Hundreds of disappearances and homicides in Charleston have gone unexplained since 1980.

As of December 31, 2020, the FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting Program listed 1,493 missing persons cases in South Carolina that had not been resolved. Charleston has not been the scene of every one of these mysteries, but it has had its share.

Dail Dinwiddie's disappearance is one of Charleston's most infamous mysteries. Dinwiddie, a young woman of 23 at the time, disappeared in 1992 after leaving a performance in downtown Charleston. She was never located, and her case has yet to be solved despite significant efforts.

There are numerous unsolved crimes in Charleston, and Dinwiddie's is just one of them. There were 187 unresolved homicides in Charleston between 1980 and 2020, according to data provided by the Charleston Police Department. Guns were involved in 83% of the incidents, and men made up 89% of the victims.

Lack of evidence or eyewitnesses has prevented the resolution of the vast majority of these instances. Fear of revenge or association with the criminal underworld can make some witnesses reluctant to come forward. Occasionally, proof may have been misplaced or destroyed.

The Charleston Police Department has worked on these unsolved cases for a long time. The agency established a Cold Case Unit in 2005 to look into cold cases, including murders and disappearances. Two detectives work round-the-clock on cold cases and make up the unit's staff.

Recent technological developments have also contributed to the resolution of some of these cases. Some cold cases in South Carolina have been solved with the help of Genetic evidence, for instance. The murder of a 19-year-old lady in 1980 in Spartanburg County was solved with the use of Genetic evidence in 2020. DNA evidence from the suspect's clothing helped to positively identify him as the murderer.

Famous cold cases in Charleston

There are still many unresolved issues for the families of the Charleston residents who have gone missing or been murdered. They will never get over the anguish of wondering what became of their loved ones.

In order to remember their loved ones forever, the families of these victims frequently organize vigils and memorials. The Charleston Police Department honored the memory of those lost to the city's unsolved homicides in 2019 with a candlelight memorial. Members of the family, local authorities, and prominent citizens all showed up for the memorial service.

The citizens of Charleston have also been instrumental in the investigation of these cold cases. Community members can aid in the pursuit of justice and closure for victims' families by coming forward with information to law authorities.

Last but not least, the numbers of persons who have gone missing or been murdered in Charleston since 1980 are chilling. Some of these cases have been solved, but many more are still open. The community and law enforcement must collaborate to deliver justice to the victims' loved ones and provide them the answers they need.

Joseph Smedley
Joseph SmedleySuspicious Death, 2015
Asha Degree
Asha DegreeMissing, 2000

Consider this

More than 200,000 unsolved cases have gone cold since 1980, and murder clearance rates continue to drop. With equity for BIPOC, LGBTQ+, and other underserved victims not prioritized in the true crime community—together we can do better.

What is Charleston Police Department (CPD)'s strategy for investigating unsolved cases?

The Charleston Police Department takes a multi-pronged approach to solving cold cases by reopening the investigations to find new leads and evidence.

The Cold Case Unit of the police department will look over the case file and all of the material they have thus far, which may include forensic evidence, witness statements, and unexplored leads from before. They also investigate the victim's history and connections for clues about who might have done it and why.

The Cold Case Unit may interview potential witnesses, family members, and anyone who may have knowledge about the case, in addition to studying the case file. They might also reexamine the physical evidence with the help of contemporary forensic methods and tools to see if anything new can be learned from the evidence.

The department will also be working closely with the public and media to raise awareness of the investigation and find fresh leads. Press conferences, PSAs, and letters to local officials and groups requesting help could all be part of this process.

The Charleston Police Department works with other departments and forensics specialists to investigate and solve these crimes. They may, for instance, collaborate with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED), or other specialized investigative or forensics labs.

In order to offer closure to families and solve these murders, the Charleston Police Department takes a multifaceted approach that includes analyzing existing evidence, conducting fresh investigations, working with the community, and coordinating with other agencies.

What resources are available to help solve cold cases?

In Charleston, South Carolina, there are a number of services available to investigate and potentially solve cold cases. Among these are:

The Charleston Police Department has a specialized cold case squad that looks into homicides and other crimes that have gone cold.

CrimeStoppers: CrimeStoppers is an anonymous, nonprofit organization that pays out rewards for information that leads to an arrest. The identity of those providing tips will be kept confidential.

When it comes to forensics, investigations, and training, the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) is there to help out local police departments.

NamUs, or the National Amnesty International's Missing and Unidentified People System: NamUs is a nationwide registry for unclaimed bodies and missing individuals. It supplies resources for law enforcement to use in the course of investigations.

If you or someone you know is missing, or if you find unidentified human remains, please contact the Doe Network.

Experts in the field of private investigation might be contracted to help with the unraveling of cold cases. But keep in mind that they are not the police and may not have the same tools at their disposal.

Major cities surrounding Charleston, South Carolina

North Charleston, South Carolina
Mount Pleasant, South Carolina
Summerville, South Carolina
Goose Creek, South Carolina
Hanahan, South Carolina

Get Your Free Step-By-Step Citizen Detective Guide

Get Your Free Step-By-Step Citizen Detective Guide