Investigators identify victims of 1976 cold case out of Sumter County

The victims have been linked to missing person reports in Colorado and Pennsylvania.
After more than 40 years, the victims have been identified as Pamela Buckley of Colorado Springs, Colorado and James Freund of Lancaster, Pennsylvania.(SCSO)
Updated: Jan. 22, 2021 at 7:30 AM EST

SUMTER, S.C. (WIS) - After more than 40 years, Sumter County Sheriff’s Office has identified the remains of two victims that were shot to death and found off I-95 on August 9, 1976.

Sumter County Sheriff Anthony Dennis says the bodies of Pamela Buckley of Colorado Springs, Colo., and James Freund of Lancaster, Pa. were discovered by a truck driver.

They each suffered three gunshots in their upper chest and, despite previous reports, neither victim was shot in the throat. Buckley was 25 years old at the time of her death, and Freund was 30 years old. (Story continues after video.)

“We have some closure that we can provide to the families and their loved ones who have been missing all these years,” Sheriff Dennis explained.

Longtime Sumter resident Jean Graham says her father, former Sumter County Sheriff Ira Byrd Parnell, dedicated much of his life to solving the case.

“He had such a tender heart, and he cared about people,” said Graham. “I know it bothered him that they couldn’t identify these people.”

One year after the bodies were found, Graham says her father decided to bury the two in the cemetery behind their family church, Bethel United Methodist. A funeral service was held, and Graham says the mystery of the man and woman’s identity has been with her family for the last four decades.

“We just kind of embraced them in our community,” she explained. “You see, there are always different flowers on the grave.”

Sheriff Dennis says in 2007, late Sumter County Coroner Verna Moore, exhumed the bodies for a DNA Sample. In June 2019, that DNA was sent to The DNA Doe Project, a nonprofit that works to identify deceased persons using forensic genealogy. The nonprofit was ultimately able was able to identify Buckley and Freund.

“To the families who had to struggle and endure with 44 years of not knowing where their loved ones are at, now they can at least put them to rest,” said Sumter County Coroner Robert M. Baker Jr.

Dennis says families of both victims have been notified, and they both reported their loved ones missing back in 1975.

Graham and the Bethel United Methodist Church community say if the families choose to leave their loved one’s bodies in the cemetery, the church plans to add new headstones with their names.

The sheriff’s office says they have a list of potential suspects that they plan to interview, but they believe the murder to have been an isolated incident.

If you have any information about the case, you can contact the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office at (803) 436-2000

You can also contact Crimestoppers in one of the following ways:

PHONE TIP — Call the toll free number at 1-888-CRIME-SC (888-274-6372).

WEB TIP — Go to www.midlandscrimestoppers.com and click “Submit a Tip”.

MOBILE TIP — Download the new P3 Tips app on your Apple or Android Device.

You can provide information anonymously through Midlands Crime Stoppers. Your tip could earn you a cash reward of up to $1,000 for information leading to the arrest of the person responsible for this crime.

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