A small section of black plastic visible from a shallow clandestine grave was the sign that led investigators to the body of a missing Madison County mother of four after months of searching, according to court testimony Monday.
Savannah Spurlock, 23, was found naked, with her feet bound by tape and her body concealed in black trash bags and a rug in a shallow grave off Fall Lick Road in Garrard County, Kentucky State Police detective Tye Chavies testified Monday during a preliminary hearing for a man charged in her disappearance.
Investigators conducted multiple searches in Central Kentucky, and Spurlock’s family pleaded for someone to come forward for months after her disappearance in the early morning hours of Jan. 4. But she would not be found until the father of one of the men she was last seen with passed information along to police.
David Sparks, 23, was charged with abuse of a corpse and evidence tampering after Spurlock’s body was discovered just before midnight Wednesday on his parents’ property on Fall Lick Road, according to police and court records. Sparks was living with his parents by the time she was found, Chavies said.
Sparks’ father had his attorney contact police after he smelled something on the property, Chavies said during Monday’s hearing in Garrard County.
Police had searched the Fall Lick Road property at least once previously, state police said Thursday.
Spurlock’s body was buried in a grave that was 19 inches deep at its deepest point, Chavies testified Monday.
Investigators were able to confirm the body was Spurlock by using her tattoos and fingerprints, Chavies said.
Early on in the investigation, police identified three men with whom Spurlock was seen leaving The Other Bar in Lexington. Sparks was one of the three men, state police confirmed after her body was found.
Sparks had previously told police that Spurlock went with him and two other men to his home at the time on Price Court in Lancaster in the early morning hours of Jan. 4, Chavies testified. Sparks said that the other two men left the home and Spurlock slept in Sparks’ bed while he slept on the couch, Chavies said.
Sparks told investigators that the following morning, Spurlock woke him to ask their address, as if she were getting a ride, Chavies said Monday. Sparks said he told her, went back to sleep and woke up to find her gone, according to the detective.
During one of the early searches of Sparks’ home on Price Court on Jan. 10, detectives found a gray rug similar in dimension and color to the one that was found with Spurlock’s body.
During Monday’s testimony, Chavies said Sparks had texted his sister on Jan. 4 to ask her where she bought a rug because he wanted to buy another one.
During an April 2 search of the Price Court house, investigators found a bloodstain consistent with Spurlock’s DNA just inside the door of the bedroom closet, Chavies said. The blood was not visible and had to be found using a latent blood reagent, Chavies testified. Detectives did not see it during their first search of the Price Court home.
Chavies was unable to say for certain if an attempt had been made to clean up the blood.
At no point during previous discussions with police did Sparks say Spurlock had hurt herself inside his home, nor did he mention that he had a missing rug, Chavies said. The detective also said that black trash bags and tape similar to tape used to bind Spurlock’s feet were found in Sparks’ Price Court home.
Spurlock’s cause, manner and time of death have not been determined, Chavies said.
Chavies testified that Sparks had visited his parents’ home on Fall Lick Road — where Spurlock’s remains were eventually found — on the evening of Jan. 4 for about two hours. That was less than a day after Spurlock was last seen. Sparks returned to the Fall Lick Road in the early morning hours of Jan. 5.
Spurlock’s best friend Sabrina Speratos spoke Monday about the report of an odor at the Fall Lick site that led to the discovery of the mother of four.
“Of course it’s hard to turn in your own child, but at the same time I can imagine what his dad would have felt like ... if he realized his (own) daughter was laying in someone’s backyard for so long as well,” Speratos said outside Monday’s preliminary hearing. “Not only was it a courtesy thing, but maybe he didn’t want to get in trouble as well. I think all this time he believed his son — I think everyone did. With the background they came from, I think they felt he wasn’t lying to them.”
Garrard County Judge Bill Oliver found probable cause for the case to move to the grand jury to review charges.
“We’re actually able to lay her to rest, and I didn’t think that would ever be possible after so long,” Speratos said after Monday’s hearing. “I think there’s a little bit of closure in that.”
A defense attorney for Sparks asked the judge to review Sparks’ bond during Monday’s hearing, pointing that he has so far only been charged with a class D felony. Judge Oliver said he would review the bond.