JANE VELEZ-MITCHELLMom Hires Detective to Search for Missing Cheerleader, 15
Aired August 22, 2012 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
And tonight, was a beautiful young cheerleader snatched right from her home? Gabby Swainson`s mom came home early Saturday morning to her daughter`s alarm clock going off, only her daughter was nowhere to be found. Mom and police say she is not a runaway. We`re getting to the bottom of this mystery tonight with Gabby`s mom and her private eye. Live next.
VELEZ-MITCHELL (voice-over): Tonight, the frantic search for a beautiful missing cheerleader. It`s a torturous mystery. Fifteen-year-old Gabrielle Swainson`s mom had to go to the office in the middle of the night. When she came home, Gabby was gone. No signs of forced entry. Only her cell phone missing. So what happened to this gorgeous teen? Tonight, I`ll talk live to her distraught mother and the private investigator she`s hired.
ELVIA SWAINSON, GABBY`S MOM: I believe she is still alive.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hundreds of volunteers are going door to door.
SWAINSON: I have to bring my baby home.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To make sure they recognize and remember this face of missing 15-year-old Gabrielle Swainson.
SWAINSON: At this point, nothing. The phone is going to -- goes straight to voice mail.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The girl whose mother has no clue how her daughter vanished or where she is.
SWAINSON: I didn`t see on her bed -- and I panicked. I froze at that moment.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She came home from work around 7 a.m. Saturday morning to Gabby`s alarm clock going off, but no Gabby.
SWAINSON: At night I can`t even sleep. I am driving around in my car, yelling her name out.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Good evening. I`m Jane Velez-Mitchell, coming to you live.
Tonight a frantic mom in South Carolina finds herself in the middle of a terrifying mystery. Where is her 15-year-old daughter? Elvia Swainson is my exclusive guest tonight.
When she left for work around 3:45 in the morning Saturday, her daughter Gabby was sound asleep in her bed. When Mom returned about four hours later, Gabby`s alarm clock was going off, but her bed was empty. Gabby had vanished without a trace. Everything she might need -- we`re talking clothes, purse, wallet -- were all left behind except for her cell phone. Police tell us there were no signs of forced entry, no signs of foul play at the home whatsoever. Neither Gabby`s mom nor police believe she ran away.
Here is Gabby on stage with her band. We`re going to show that to you in a moment.
So where is this beautiful teenager who was excited to begin her sophomore year of high school tomorrow? I want your thoughts. Help us out here. Call me: 1-877-JVM-SAYS, 1-877-586-7297.
Straight out to my exclusive guest, Elvia Swainson.
Elvia, thank you for joining us tonight. Our hearts go out to you. We want to be helpful. I cannot imagine what these last few days have been like for you. So let me begin with this question. What has this been like for you? What are you going through?
SWAINSON: I feel like I am in a -- still in a dream, actually, and I haven`t awakened from that dream yet. I am -- my heart is torn out. Everyone is telling me to continue to be strong, and I`m continuing to try to be strong every single day.
The only strength I can pull from this is from the good Lord above. He`s giving me the strength to continue to try to search for my daughter.
Every day is a new agenda, what strategies I can, you know, think of to get going and find my daughter and bring her home.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Let`s jump into that. Let`s jump into that. You last saw your daughter Gabby early Saturday. You say you gave Gabby her cell phone before leaving for work at about 3:45 a.m. You told us Gabby`s alarm goes off every morning at 5:45.
So first of all, let me try to get a sense here. Where do you go at 3:45? You`re going to work Saturday. You come home at 7:30, and why would Gabby have her alarm set for 5:45, if that`s a Saturday? Is there a particular reason why she wanted to wake up that early on Saturday?
SWAINSON: I only believe that her alarm clock is set already. We normally -- sometimes we go to church on -- the first service at our church, which is at 7, and she does take an hour to get dressed. So I can only think -- the only think I can think of is that she may have gotten her days mixed up and had already set the alarm clock. Because she is not a procrastinator. She would do things way in advance. And so I don`t know if she purposely set it for Sunday, or if she mistakenly set it for Sunday morning.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: OK. Now you and police agree, Gabby doesn`t fit the profile of a runaway, not in her behavior, her demeanor. Look, she had lots to look forward to. She just made the cheerleading squad, which, gosh, all you women who go for that want to -- that`s a huge victory.
She had her clothes, her backpack ready. She was excited to start her sophomore year. Tomorrow she was supposed to start. So my question to you: did she have any friends that you were concerned about? Did she have a boyfriend? Was there anybody else in the house? Can you hit all those questions? Because we want to -- we want to cover all the bases here.
SWAINSON: OK. No one else lives in the house. My daughter, I`m not sure -- I don`t believe she had a boyfriend. Well, let me just say that over. She does not have a boyfriend.
Recently, she was getting excited about a young guy who was interested in her. I know the young man from way back in the eighth grade. She knows him from way back in the eighth grade. And she was a little excited that he had shown some interest in her again. So that right there told me that, you know, she really did not have a boyfriend.
And the way Gabrielle and I communicate every day, we talk about things every day. I would have known if she had a boyfriend. Of course, we don`t know everything.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right, OK. And there was nobody else in the house?
SWAINSON: No, ma`am, there was no one else in the house.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: OK. Now, I`m sorry. I`m just trying to move through a lot to try to be helpful, because we`ve got some experts here that we also want to go to and you have a private investigator. Let`s recap and review.
Gabby`s purse, her wallet, her credit cards, her phone charger, her keys, her clothes all found in her room. The only thing missing, her phone. Gabby`s phone is one of the ways to track her.
Now very quickly, my understanding is, Elvia, that the first time you called it rang, but then the second time it went to voice mail. Is that true?
SWAINSON: That is true.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: OK. So...
SWAINSON: I called...
VELEZ-MITCHELL: OK. Go ahead, I`m sorry.
SWAINSON: Yes. I called and as soon as...
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Go ahead, I`m sorry.
SWAINSON: I called as soon as I realized or was trying to get my senses together as far as where she was. I immediately grabbed the phone and called, and it rang and rang, no answer. It might have rang about six to eight times. I`m not sure. I didn`t count. But after that, it hung up. And I tried it again two or three times afterwards, and it just went straight to voice mail.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: OK. Hold on one second. T.J. Ward, private investigator, former police officer, what does that indicate to you? Because it`s one thing if it`s off from the get-go, but if it rings once a lot and then the next time you call it`s off, what does it signify?
T.J. WARD, PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR: Somebody has turned that phone off.
One of the good things that can happen here is law enforcement has the ability not only to do a triangulation of that phone and can pinpoint where that phone is or last calls are, but they can also go in and pull any voice mails, any text messages and get all that. That needs to be done very quickly, because it takes time to compile that information with phone carriers. So it`s real important to do that.
And apparently, they did get on this rather quickly, the mother did, and incorporated the private investigator to try to follow up and make sure that`s done.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, Chandra Cleveland-Jennings, you`re -- again, this is an exclusive interview. You`re the private investigator hired by Elvia Swainson. My question: set the stage here in terms of the apartment. Was the door locked when -- when Mrs. Swainson left, presumably she locked the door. I don`t want to assume anything. On the way back from work, did she find the door locked or open?
CHANDRA CLEVELAND-JENNINGS, PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR: Well, Jane, first of all, thank you for having us to get this national attention to get the word out about Gabby.
But as we go by habit. We take our keys and put it in the door and unlock the door, not knowing if the door was opened or if it was locked. And that`s exactly what Elvia did on that morning of coming back, was turning the key in the lock and opening the door. So we can`t say whether it was already unlocked or if it was opened or what, but that`s what happened on the day of return.
And you also asked earlier about the alarm clock. The alarm clock just wasn`t set for that day at 5:45 a.m. Because we knew that it went off at that time only because the following morning it went off again.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Oh, OK. It`s one of those that go -- OK, I want to bring in Wendy Murphy, former prosecutor, law professor at New England Law, Boston. What do you make of it?
WENDY MURPHY, LAW PROFESSOR: Well, you know, if I had a nickel for every time we covered a story where something nefarious happened between 3 and 6 in the morning. I mean, it`s just extraordinary, isn`t it?
I think that police probably know a lot more than they`re letting the public know about. I have no doubt that, if she`s had any online relationships and/or conversations with people about whom the police are interested, that they know that.
If she did leave on her own -- I mean, the mom wakes her up at 3:45 in the morning to give her her cell phone back. So she`s awake at 3:45 in the morning. Did she talk to anybody? Did she text anybody? Did she call anybody? Did she go -- did she stay awake or did she go back to bed? I`m like to ask Mrs. Swainson.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, yes, Elvia, let`s address that. Was she asleep when you left for work at 3:45 in the morning? Or was she -- did you wake her up to give her her cell phone at 3:45?
SWAINSON: At 3:45 in the morning, I gave -- I shook her, "Gabby, Gabby, here`s the phone. I`m about to run off to work." She`s groggy. She`s turning over. She takes the phone, and she goes back to sleep. So completely being awake...
VELEZ-MITCHELL: OK. I`m going to ask you -- I`m going to ask you to pause one second. We want to get through all this. We`re going to take a brief break, and we`re going to take calls from our viewers and we`re going to continue to investigate. Stay right there.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`d like to introduce you to our band now. We have Gabby on guitar and vocals.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Gabby Swainson, a budding star there in the denim jacket singing. Beautiful young lady. Just made the cheerleading squad. About to start school -- school tomorrow, 15 years old. And she vanished right from her bed. Her mom went to work on Saturday morning, came back and her precious daughter`s gone. We`re trying to figure out what happened to Gabby.
Let`s go to the phone lines. Shawna, Massachusetts. Your question or thought? Shawna.
CALLER: Yes, hi, Jane. My question is that the mother was -- she had to go to the office at 3:45 in the morning. What kind of work does the mother do and what kind of office would you be going to at 3:45 in the morning?
VELEZ-MITCHELL: OK. Elvia, you want to clarify all of that?
SWAINSON: Yes. My normal work hours is 8 to 5 p.m., 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. I -- sometimes we have projects that we have to get completed by a certain date.
On this particular time I did have a project that I had to get completed by Wednesday. I thought about it. Sometimes it`s not just me but other co-workers. Sometimes we go in the office a little early just to get things caught up. And that was what my plan was Saturday morning, was to get up, go ahead and get the project completed so that I could enjoy the rest of the weekend with my daughter. So this is actually -- I work for an insurance company.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Oh, wow, OK. And now, let me just ask you about giving your daughter the cell phone at 3:45 a.m. Why did you have the cell phone? We`re just trying to paint a picture so we understand sort of the whole scene. You had her cell phone, and then you`re leaving for work very early in the morning. And you woke her up and said, "Here`s a cell phone." And then she went back to sleep or how did that work?
SWAINSON: Well, Gabrielle and I have, you know, agreed on me getting her phone back every night by about 8:30, and this is just a time management type of thing, because sometimes the teenagers will stay on the phone a little longer than they need to, continue texting a little longer than they need to. And this was just a time management type of thing that I was working on with her that, yes, I will allow you to be on your cell phone, but you have to have a cutoff time. I`ve always been strict on that.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: OK. All right. I think you`ve answered that. And I just want to continue, because we want to -- we want to solve this and help you find your daughter.
Ten years ago Elizabeth Smart`s parents endured the same nightmare that you`re going through. Elizabeth was actually snatched from her bedroom.
Now, their prayers were answered. Elizabeth was found alive, safe and sound nine months after someone who had done yard work for the family abducted her from her bedroom.
And so Elvia, I want to ask you, because there`s different types of abductions. And we pray that your daughter is found safe and sound, as was Elizabeth. But has there been anybody in your life, anybody hanging around, doing yard work, for example, or a friend that you feel like, I`m not so sure about this person? Maybe they had a drug problem or an alcohol problem or they`re just behaving strangely? Anybody like that?
SWAINSON: Well, I do have a close friend that was helping me with some remodeling in my house. That`s about...
VELEZ-MITCHELL: A male?
SWAINSON: I don`t have a -- yes.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Is this a male? OK, this -- you had a male who was helping around the house. Explain that. And Chandra, if you`d like to take it, go ahead.
CLEVELAND-JENNINGS: Yes, I would like to. Yes, it was just a friend that was helping her with some odds and ends of repairing a floor that had water damage. And they became friends, and that`s about it, that we know and have the information on him.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Have police interviewed him?
CLEVELAND-JENNINGS: Yes, they have, but we can`t share that information with you from their interview.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Interesting. We`re going to take a brief break, take more calls. And we`re going to get to the bottom of this, if we can. We want to find this beautiful, beautiful girl.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m going to introduce you to our band now. We have Gabby on guitar.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: There`s 15-year-old Gabby in the denim jacket singing. She`s talented, she`s just made the cheerleading squad, about to start school tomorrow, except we can`t find her. We don`t know where she is. We have an exclusive interview tonight with her very, very frantic mother, who has hired a private investigator to try to find her beautiful daughter.
Let`s go out to the phone lines. Valerie, in Georgia. Your thought or question, Valerie?
CALLER: Hi. I want to just ask the mom, are you aware how many social sites she`s actually on and perhaps she met someone online that is aware of her whereabouts. Because a lot of times if you put pictures up online, Google has a way where you can zoom in to the pictures to get the exact address where you are. And...
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Unbelievable. Great question. Elvia, do you want to address that?
SWAINSON: I`m not aware about Google doing anything as far as giving addresses out.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, was she on social media? Was she on social media?
CLEVELAND-JENNINGS: Right, I can answer that for you, Jane. I can answer that for you, because that`s exactly what my priority of getting started in the investigation. And I did a cell-phone forensic on all of her social media pages, from her Twitter to her Tumblr to her Facebook and to her e-mail account. I was able to rule out any recent activity except with one person that she had a crush on recently that most of her texts came from.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Who is that? I mean, I don`t want a name, but is that a young man? And have police talked to him? Briefly. We`re almost out of time.
CLEVELAND-JENNINGS: Yes, we have spoken to him. He`s ruled out as anything done. And that`s the same young man we mentioned earlier. But all her social media and all the contacts in it have been contacted by me. By me.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Elvia, we only have a couple of seconds. If your daughter Gabby is watching, what would you like to say to her?
SWAINSON: I would like to say, Gabby, I love you. You know I do. I don`t think this is something that you did on your own. I don`t think you would have done this at all. I believe you. I love you. God is with you. All the church members, all the community, everybody is pouring out their love to you. We want to see you back alive and well. I don`t think that`s anything impossible for God to do and, therefore, I believe you are coming home soon.
Whoever is watching, anybody that`s watching, if you know anything, have seen my daughter, please contact my private investigator, Chandra Jennings, or contact the police department, Richland County Police Department.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: And we also have -- I want to say we have a number on the screen, Elvia, 1-888-CRIME-SC. So please, or just call 911. If you know something, reach out immediately. We want to help this mother find her precious, beautiful daughter.
Our hearts go out to you, Elvia. We`ll stay on top of this. If you get any information, please let us know immediately. We will bring it to our viewers. Thank you, and our hearts are with you.