Sanaa Amenhotep, the 15-year-old daughter of an anti-violence activist, was found dead on Wednesday after a three-week search that followed her disappearance. The teenager, who was last seen on April 5 when she left her house in Columbia, South Carolina with a girl and two males, was found nearby in a wooded area in Lexington County, WIS News 10 reported.
Investigators said Amenhotep may have been killed on the night she disappeared. Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott adds that the girl likely left her home willingly. But police said she may have been kidnapped and killed.
After finding the teen, police arrested 17-year-old Jaylon Wilson, who is being charged for kidnapping. Officers are also searching for 18-year-old Treveon Jamar Nelson and is suspected of kidnapping as well. Authorities also believe the case may have relation to a gang.
“I’m urging him to turn hisself [sic] in. He’s going to get caught,” Lott said. “He can’t run and hide. We’re going to find him.”
Tragic ending to a missing person's case. Sanaa Amenhotep was found early today.— Dawndy Mercer Plank (@DawndyWISTV) April 29, 2021
The Richland County teen was found in Lexington County.
One guy arrested; officials are searching for one other.https://t.co/Y4fDeGB2eP
Live report with @LaurenAdamsWIS on @wis10 at 12. pic.twitter.com/C1CPqMmmOU
“On behalf of the people of Newark, I would like to express my sincere condolences to Sharif Malik Amenhotep, on the tragic loss of his beautiful and intelligent Black daughter, Sanaa Amenhotep, who was kidnapped and murdered in South Carolina,” Newark Mayor Ras Baraka said in a statement.
The mayor said the grieving father has worked tirelessly to bring justice and reduce violence, helping to "re-imagine public safety and prevent tragedies such as this from taking place in our very own community."
“No parent should ever have to bury their child. It is an inexplicable loss that defies imagination," Baraka said. “We hope that the South Carolina authorities can bring the suspects in this case to justice. Our entire city is joining with the Amenhotep family in their grief and pain.”
Sharif said his daughter means everything to him.
"I just truly miss her,” he told WIS while the family was searching for the teen last week.
“Her phone’s been off, her Instagram’s been off. My daughter calls me at least twice a week,” Sharif said in the midst of the search efforts. “She doesn’t go a week without calling me. We have a close relationship.”
Lexington County Coroner Margaret Fisher said it's hard to imagine what the family is going through.
“It was a very difficult scene for our office," Fisher said. "We stayed most of the night processing and taking care of the family, taking care of Sanaa.”
Detectives are also grappling with the tragedy as they look to uncover more information on the case.
“It is with great sadness that another young person has tragically lost their life,” Lott said. “Hug your kids and continue to lift the family in prayer.”
The family is receiving support from the pastors of Amenhotep’s church, who have organized a fundraiser to cover funeral expenses.
Anyone with information on the case is asked to Crime Stoppers at 888-CRIME-SC.
“I can’t tell you how tragic and sad this case is when we lose a 15-year-old like we lost this one,” Lott said. “I know deputies and police officers are not supposed to get emotionally involved in cases, but there is no way that when we work a case like [this], our people don’t get emotionally attached to this case.”