RCSD solves 5-year cold case of missing Fort Jackson soldier

Find resources for those struggling with thoughts of suicide at the bottom of this story.
The family of Sgt. 1st Class Johnnie Johnson can now lay him to rest.
The family of Sgt. 1st Class Johnnie Johnson can now lay him to rest.(RCSD)
Updated: Nov. 13, 2020 at 1:05 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Five years ago, a Fort Jackson soldier disappeared.

The case went cold, but Sheriff Leon Lott says they never stopped investigating.

Friday morning, Lott said the soldier’s family now has some closure, but the case does have a sad ending.

Sgt. 1st Class Johnnie Johnson was 36 years old when he disappeared in December of 2015. He was last seen Dec. 7 at a gas station in Edgefield.

At the beginning of the investigation, Lott said his deputies suspected Johnson had died by suicide, but they didn’t have evidence and the case went cold.

“In cases like this, the family just doesn’t know, we don’t know -- nobody knows what happens and you want to find closure,” Lott said. “Even if it is a suicide, you want to have that answer on what actually happened.”

RCSD’s Cold Case Unit took up the case in 2018.

In Dec. 2019, a person walking about a half mile from Johnson’s home found human remains. Investigators got DNA, but the pandemic slowed their efforts, Lott said.

In early October, K-9 Search Special Operations and the Spartanburg County Search and Rescue team found the rest of Johnson’s remains.

On Oct. 30, Fort Jackson confirmed the DNA from those remains was indeed Johnson’s.

“I’m proud of everyone who worked on this case,” Lott said. “This is what good, shoe-leather police work looks like. Because of their tenacity, we were able to bring some closure to the family of Sgt. Johnson.”

Lott wanted to thank Michel Galliot of K-9 Search Special Operations; Spartanburg County Search and Rescue; Dr. Jon Leader and the South Carolina Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology; Dr. Bill Stevens and the Richland County Coroner’s Office and Special Agents from the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command for their assistance in this case.

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