LORIS, SC (WMBF) – A South Carolina Highway Patrol trooper was fired Tuesday for not following protocol in the case of Stephanie Callahan, the Loris woman who was found dead in a tree stand days after crashing her car near Loris in mid-February.
Lance Corporal R.W. Batchelor was terminated on March 3, over one week after he was originally suspended while SCHP investigated the case. It was revealed that Batchelor did not properly follow protocol regarding abandoned vehicles.
According to the Highway Patrol, these are the areas where Batchelor deviated from established protocol and procedures by failing to:
- E-mail the collision report and the abandoned vehicle report to the first sergeant
- Attempt to locate and notify the owner and/or family members at the address of the registered owner of the abandoned vehicle that was involved in the collision
- Notify local law enforcement of the situation
The family said Callahan was found in the woods near her crashed car on Sunday, February 22, which was found and towed away that Thursday, without their knowledge. Stephanie's father says he knew nothing about the car crash she was involved in until that weekend. She had been missing since late Wednesday night.
On Saturday February 21, the family says they learned her car had been towed from this location days before, and Sunday found out her body was not far away.
"Why let my cousin lay there, why let her freeze, why let her cry, why let her scream for help because you know she did. She didn't just lay there," asked Sarah Reich, Callahan's cousin.
According to Sonny Collins with the South Carolina Highway Patrol, troopers along with Horry County Fire Rescue responded to a crash off Morgan road on February 19, around 2:30 a.m. Troopers searched but didn't find a driver or anyone in the area of the collision, according to Collins.
Collins reported that the car was registered to Stephanie Callahan. The trooper on the scene went to the address where the car was registered, but wasn't able to reach anyone at the residence. Collins said the address associated with the registration is not Callahan's parents' address. Callahan's father says that she had recently moved.
Batchelor had originally reported that he had followed protocol after he found Callahan's crashed vehicle, but SCHP investigators later learned that there were inconsistencies in his account, that resulted in an internal investigation by the SCDPS Office of Professional Responsibility.
The investigation revealed that Batchelor did not properly follow protocol with his supervisors, the Callahan family, and local law enforcement, and led to his termination on March 3. The effective date of his termination is February 23, when he was suspended.
Batchelor joined the Highway Patrol in 2006, according to SCHP officials, and was assigned to Troop 5, which covers Horry County.