Divers find missing woman's cell phone in pond

Published: Feb. 16, 2012 at 3:50 PM EST|Updated: Feb. 17, 2012 at 3:24 PM EST
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Divers search a pond in the Rivertowne subdivision Thursday.
Divers search a pond in the Rivertowne subdivision Thursday.
Before the dive teams went in the water, an alligator was removed.
Before the dive teams went in the water, an alligator was removed.

MT. PLEASANT, SC (WCSC) - A team of divers waded through murky waters in people's back yards Thursday, searching for the body of missing Mt. Pleasant woman Dara Watson.

While dive teams didn't find Watson, they didn't come up empty handed. Watson's cell phone was found in a retention pond near her home in the Rivertowne subdivision. Before divers had entered the pond, authorities removed an alligator. Shortly after, divers recovered Watson's cell phone.

Investigators think the phone was used Feb. 8 by her fiance, David Hedrick, to mislead the woman's family and employer about her safety. Text messages said Watson was fine.

Watson was last seen in Boone, North Carolina on Feb. 6. Last Friday, two friends found Hedrick, dead in the couple's North Creek Drive home after an apparent self inflicted gunshot wound to the head.

Law enforcement officers and the community are coming together to find Watson after multiple searches in Mt. Pleasant and the Francis Marion National Forest, near where her car was found burned.

"We all go outside mow our lawns, walk our pets, see each other regularly, it makes you surprised that those kinds of things can happen next door," said resident Ingrid Ray.

The discovery of Hedrick and the search for Watson have sent a shock wave through a quiet neighborhood in Rivertowne. Law enforcement agencies have lined the streets for days.

On Thursday, divers were practically in people's backyards searching for Watson.

For Ray, who has children, it has been difficult living in a suspected crime scene.

"You worry about them getting in the way, but also that they'll discover something," Ray said. "You just get kind of nervous that something will go on that you don't want them to be part of."

Ray says it's not just law enforcement causing high traffic.

"I've been surprised by the number of spectators that have come down"

Not everyone is standing on the sidelines. Chris Pereira took to the woods where Watson's car was found last Tuesday to do some searching of his own.

"Today is my day off," Pereira said. "I'm on vacation, but I wanted to come search for Miss Watson."

Pereira says Watson's story hits close to home and he wants to do anything he can to help.

"I have two daughters and if one of them was missing I would be out here night and day looking for them," he said.

Watson's cell phone was the only thing discovered by divers Thursday. Ray expects her neighborhood to be busier than usual for some time.

"It's been very eerie," Ray said. "Lots of creeks and woods in this area and Francis Marion. You wonder what could be going on in those woods."

Deputies called the search off for the night when it got dark. They plan on searching several other marshy areas starting Friday morning.

Mt. Pleasant Police Chief Harry Sewell says that Hedrick was involved in her disappearance. According to police, a witness spotted Hedrick with a shovel, leaving the area where Watson's car was found burned. Deputies recovered a shovel near where the car was found last Saturday that could be the shovel that Hedrick had the day he was driven home from the forest. The shovel is being tested for possible DNA from Dara Watson.

On Friday, two events will be held the Mt. Pleasant Waterfront Memorial Park to support Watson's family and friends. At 4 p.m., event organizers will distribute flyers and posters. At 7  p.m., a candlelight vigil will be held for Watson.

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.

Copyright WCSC 2012. All rights reserved.