State News

Body found off I-77, S.C. man charged with murder

Posted May 30, 2009 12:00 p.m. EDT
Updated June 5, 2009 11:46 a.m. EDT

— A 29-year-old South Carolina man earlier identified as a witness in a Charlotte, N.C., woman's disappearance is charged with her murder after a woman's remains were found in a burned vehicle, authorities said Saturday.

Theodore Roosevelt Manning IV of Gaston is charged with murder in the death of Nikki McPhatter, 30. Manning was arrested at his home about 7 p.m. Friday, about two hours after authorities found the charred vehicle off of Interstate 77 in nearby Fairfield County, said Richland County Sheriff's spokesman Lt. Chris Cowan.

The remains require identification through DNA or dental records, but indications are the body is McPhatter, said Richland County Coroner Gary Watts. He said autopsy results show a gunshot to the head killed her, though he's unable to determine a time of death.

McPhatter had a distinctive license plate that read "PHATTAH," but the plate on the burned vehicle was unreadable, Watts said.

McPhatter was reported missing May 11.

Manning was being held at the Richland County jail. A bond hearing had not yet been set. It was unclear if he had an attorney. No one answered the phone at two published phone listings for a Theodore Manning.

The Charlotte Observer reported that Manning was initially identified as a witness named "Teddy," and that friends said McPhatter had driven to South Carolina to break up with him. But Charlotte-Mecklenburg police Chief Rodney Monroe has declined to discuss their relationship.

"We knew about Teddy and tried to tell the investigator," Fran Eddings, a co-worker and friend who had organized search efforts, told the newspaper. "She went to break it off with (Manning). She tried to end it. She was going there to get her things because he wouldn't bring them to her."

McPhatter, who worked at a Charlotte/Douglas International Airport ticket counter, was last heard from May 6 when she called a friend to say she'd run out of gas in Columbia. She didn't answer her phone shortly afterward, Monroe said Friday.

A camera at a South Carolina bank caught two men trying unsuccessfully May 6 to use McPhatter's ATM card. Authorities have been unable to identify the men because of the video's poor quality. Investigators are uncertain whether Manning was one of them, Monroe said.