Crime

Burned body found in a ditch in South Carolina is a Kentucky woman, police say

South Carolina authorities have identified the body of a Kentucky woman found burned in a ditch and are asking for the public’s assistance in a homicide investigation.

A news release Thursday from the Chester County sheriff’s office in Chester, S.C., said the body of Melissa I. Whitis, 31, of Frankfort, was found on Lizzie Melton Road on Sept. 20 in a rural area of Chester County.

The release said it is believed that Whitis was in the vicinity of I-40 in Davie County, N. C., on Sept. 17. That is about 100 miles from Chester, S.C.

The sheriff’s office said Whitis may have been wearing yellow pants, a gray overcoat and a knee brace with her hair pulled up, possibly in a knit cap.

WBTV in Charlotte, N.C., reported that a passerby discovered the badly burned body and that authorities were able to identify her after finding a medical shunt in her head to drain excess fluid.

They identified the manufacturer of the shunt and worked with the maker to contact about a dozen hospitals where those devices were sent.

That led them to Kentucky and the identification of the woman.

Authorities have not released the medical reason for the shunt.

The Herald in Rock Hill, S.C., reported that the woman had several tattoos that helped identify her, including the names “Ethan Emily” on her right foot.

Family members told WKYT in Lexington that Whitis was from Frankfort but had ties to Somerset and Lexington. They said she was married with two children.

Family members also said Whitis had been known to travel from state to state. They said they had last seen her about a month ago and had no idea why she was in South Carolina.

Anyone with information about Whitis or who may have had contact with her since Sept. 17 is asked to call the Chester County Sheriff’s Office at 803-581-5131.

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