SC man helps investigators ID victims in 1976 cold case killings

SC man helps investigators ID victims in 1976 cold case killings
A truck driver found the bodies of Pamela Mae Buckley and James Paul Freund just off Interstate 95 and Old St. John Church Road in Sumter County on Aug. 9, 1976. Both had been reported missing in 1975, the year before their deaths. (Source: Sumter County Sheriff's Office via WLTX)

SUMTER, S.C. (WLTX/CBS News) - A Clemson graduate who followed a 44-year-old murder case for years helped investigators finally find the resources to identify the two victims.

Last week, Sumter County investigators released the victims’ identities in a case investigators admit has “mystified” them for all that time.

Sumter County Sheriff Anthony Dennis held a news conference Thursday where he announced that the people are Pamela Mae Buckley and James Paul Freund.

A truck driver found their bodies just off Interstate 95 and Old St. John Church Road in Sumter County on Aug. 9, 1976. The coroner determined they’d been shot to death.

Buckley, who was from Colorado Springs, Colorado, was 25 when she died. Fruend, who was 30, grew up in Minnesota but had been living in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Both had been reported missing in 1975, the year before their deaths.

“It’s our hope that this news will bring the families some kind of closure,” Dennis said.

Matthew McDaniel, a Clemson University graduate who’d followed the case for 8 years, put the sheriff’s office in touch with an organization called the DNA Doe Project, back in 2019.

That was the break investigators needed.

The former Sumter County Coroner, Verna Moore, had their bodies exhumed back in 2007 so DNA samples could be taken. Those samples, still on file, were sent to the DNA Doe Project and to California and Alabama for DNA extraction. The results determined Buckley and Freund were the candidates for the unidentified victims.

Both had been shot three times, investigators say, two times in the front of the body and once in the back of the head--or execution style, as McDaniel described it.

Dennis said he’s reopening the investigation and said there are still persons of interest in the case.

He’s hoping someone will come forward so there can be the ultimate resolution: determining who was responsible for their murders.

Copyright 2021 WLTX/CBS News. All rights reserved.