Fiance seen with shovel leaving missing woman's burning car

Published: Feb. 14, 2012 at 1:17 PM EST|Updated: Feb. 15, 2012 at 1:10 PM EST
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David Hedrick, left, and Dara Lee Watson, right. (Source: Facebook)
David Hedrick, left, and Dara Lee Watson, right. (Source: Facebook)
Mt. Pleasant Police Chief Harry Sewell discussed the disappearance of Dara Lee Watson on Tuesday.
Mt. Pleasant Police Chief Harry Sewell discussed the disappearance of Dara Lee Watson on Tuesday.

MT. PLEASANT, SC (WCSC) - Mt. Pleasant Police Chief Harry Sewell said Tuesday that the fiance of a missing woman, who hasn't been seen since last Monday, was involved in her disappearance. According to police, a witness spotted David Hedrick with a shovel, leaving the area where 30-year-old Dara Watson's car was found burned up.

Law enforcement agencies have been searching for Watson, who was last seen in Boone, North Carolina on Feb. 6. On Friday, two friends found Hedrick, 34, dead in the couple's North Creek Drive home after an apparent self inflicted gunshot wound to the head.

During a press conference Tuesday, Sewell said that between Monday evening and Tuesday afternoon, Hedrick was involved in the circumstances of Watson's disappearance. Police say the couple may have had an argument Monday night about the upcoming wedding.

"Dara's burnt vehicle was recovered in the Francis Marion National Forest off of Halfway Creek Road," Sewell said. "Witnesses have positively identified Hedrick leaving the burning vehicle and hitching a ride from a passerby to North Creek Drive near his residence."

Authorities are looking for anyone who may have seen Hedrick's white 2008 Mercedes E-350 or Watson's silver 2006 GMC Envoy between Monday and Tuesday night.

Hedrick is the former president and CEO of Palmetto Surety Corporation.

"Our staff extends its heartfelt prayers and sympathy to Ms. Watson's family as the search for her continues," Palmetto Surety Corporation said in statement. "(We) are fully cooperating with the Mount Pleasant Police Department who is leading the investigation into Ms. Watson's disappearance."

Search crews returned to the forest Tuesday to search the area for the third time since Watson was reported missing last week. Earlier Tuesday, authorities set up an investigation scene near the intersection of Iron Swamp Road and Clayfield Road. A tip received by Mt. Pleasant police led the Charleston County Sheriff's Office to that area.

"Extensive searches with multiple agencies have been and are being conducted at the residence and in the areas of the national forest near where the vehicle was recovered as well as areas identified through cell phone records," Sewell said.

Deputies assessed an area near Clayfield Road to determine if the area may be related to the Watson missing persons case. Authorities say a fresh dig hole that led investigators to the area appears to be from a tree that fell over and is probably not related to the Watson case. A forensic unit is on scene testing soil samples.

Watson hasn't been seen since Feb. 6 and authorities have been searching for her since Friday.

"We, along with Dara's family, are asking for any information that the public may have about the sightings of either Dara Watson or David Hedrick, or of either of their vehicles through Monday or Tuesday evenings," Sewell said.

According to investigators, Hedrick contacted the Mt. Pleasant Police Department on the day a missing persons case was filed by Watson's employer. Police questioned him about Watson's disappearance and just an hour later, Hedrick was found dead in the couple's home.

When police questioned Hedrick, he told them that he hadn't seen Watson since Tuesday, when the couple had an argument that morning. He first told police that Watson's disappearance didn't seem like anything out of the ordinary because she had left and gone to stay with a friend for a couple of days on a few occasions, but later added that she had never been gone for "this period of time" and he was beginning to worry.

Watson's boss reported her missing after she had not been heard from for two days. Watson was last seen on Feb. 6 in Boone, NC by her mother. Watson's family is staying at a local hotel while the search continues.

Multiple agencies began the search for Watson near where her SUV was found off Halfway Creek Road. On Monday, police continued to search the couple's North Creek Drive home.

According to the incident report, two of Hedrick's friends, Patrick O'Neil and Charles Gilbert, discovered his body on the bed in the master bedroom. O'Neil and Gilbert say they were making their way up the back steps of their good friend's house when they heard a single gunshot. The report also states that Hedrick's friend located a 9 mm handgun in the master bedroom's bathroom.

O'Neil says that leading up to Friday, Hedrick wasn't himself. He said the 34 year old was quiet and withdrawn. The two friends say things got more serious Thursday when they found out Watson was missing and the Mt. Pleasant Police Department was looking for her.

The friends say Hedrick told them "They gotta do what they gotta do." That is what led the two friends to his front porch, knocking on the door.

According to the couple's wedding website, they just got engaged in January. Dozens of pictures of the couple are posted on Watson's Facebook page, including several from international trips the two took together.

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