On August 18th of this year, a 15-year old girl went missing from her home in Elgin, SC. Gabbie Swainson was last seen by her mother. She was safe in her own bed with her cell phone in her hand when her mother left to go to work at approximately 4:00 am. When Gabbie’s mother came home from work, her daughter was gone.
She was a good girl, a cheerleader, an honor student and not the type of 15-year old girl who might run away from home and not answer repeated calls to her cell phone. It was quickly determined that she was abducted. As the story was broadcast on local news stations, all mothers of young teenage girls held them a little closer and prayed for Gabbie’s safe return. I remember becoming physically ill one morning on my way to the airport because I had just left my own daughter at home at 6:30 am. From that moment on, I didn’t leave Tink alone.
Young teenage girls were scared. I remember trying to reassure Tink by telling her that in most of these situations the abductor is someone who knows the family and has access to the home. I explained to her that we didn’t have that situation in our family and we talked through all the people who had keys to our home and what to do if adult friends show up unannounced at her school or at home.
Very quickly a “friend of the family” was labeled as a person of interest and then as a suspect. The local sheriff gave multiple news conferences and each time he was asked if there was any relationship between the suspect and Gabbie’s mother, the answer was always “he’s just a family friend.” I felt somewhat relieved and pointed out to Tink that my prediction was correct.
Groups gathered to show support and people assisted the police in searching for Gabbie. Tink even attended a cheerleader rally to “Bring Gabbie Home” because Gabbie was a cheerleader at her high school. I prayed for Gabbie’s safe return but I also fervently prayed for her mother. I couldn’t imagine her horror. After 3 weeks, my prayers changed. If Gabbie couldn’t come home, could she please not be suffering anymore.
When the news finally broke that the main suspect, Freddie Grant, was a person with whom Gabbie’s mother had once had a romantic relationship, that he had spent the night in the home on more than one occasion, and that he possessed a key to the home, many people were outraged.
I remember a conversation with the mother of one of Tink’s friends: “I knew something was off with that woman at the memorial service. There weren’t nearly enough tears for me! And now she says that man had a key to her home and spent the night there? No, there’s something wrong with that woman and she did something to her daughter!”
Now the lack of tears did not spark suspicion in me. When Tink was 9 years old, she wandered off during our vacation at Disney World. I had methodically searched every stall in the bathroom before I went to the front desk and reported my daughter missing. I’ll never forget that young man’s words on the phone, “I have an actual missing child”. My husband was frantic and panicked. My outward appearance was eerily calm as I described what Tink was wearing and retrieved a picture from my wallet. I was in the process of spelling out her name and ours when she came wheeling around the corner in her heelies. (shoes with wheels that were extremely popular at the time) I ran, grabbed Tink and made sure she was safe and unharmed. Then I promptly fell apart. I didn’t have to be strong anymore because I’d found my daughter. So I don’t blame Gabbie’s mom for not crying enough at the Memorial Service. She was trying to be strong.
I said that people were outraged. Really, we were relieved. Because now we could point our self-righteous fingers at Gabbie’s mother and say, “You are a bad mother. You did things I would never do and that is why this happened to you.” But the entire time we are also secretly thinking, “Therefore, it can’t happen to me.”
As of today, Gabbie is still missing. Duct tape with her blood on it was found in the home of the suspect, Freddie Grant. Most of us assume that Gabbie is deceased. Almost everyone except, of course, Gabbie’s mother. I don’t believe Gabbie’s mother did anything wrong. I believe she was a single woman who had a relationship with a man whom she thought was safe to have around her daughter. I think she would give her life and soul to go back in time and never allow Freddie Grant on her property much less near her family. I believe she is a good mother. And that’s extremely hard to do. Not because she wasn’t a good mother to Gabbie, but because if something this horrific can happen to a good mother and her family, then it can happen to me and my family.
Please say a prayer to bring Gabbie home. We all need Gabbie to come home. Her mother needs her to come home.
(Click here for an interview with Gabbie’s Mother)