As the sun set on Aynor Town Park Saturday night, a glow of hopeful hearts shone from beneath the pavilion as dozens gathered to remember all missing people in the region.
Small four-by-six picture frames sat among lit candles on a covered picnic bench as the more than hour-long vigil took place.
Lonnie Jordan, stepfather for Zach Malinowski who went missing in August, spoke to the crowd in the dimly lit pavilion as they stood and sat in a semi-circle. Jordan delivered a fiery speech outlining his frustration with the lack of resources police and families have for missing people who are not minors, and explained the persistence needed by families to keep law enforcement on task when looking for loved ones.
“Some cases we have to fight to get attention for,” Jordan said. “We’ve really tried to get through this as a family... South Carolina does not have any guidelines for missing people.”
Jordan said there are resources for missing and exploited children and there is help for those through a state sheriff association that Horry County is not involved with, he said.
“It didn’t Angie [Pipkin] any good, it didn’t do Zach any good and it didn’t do Kareem [Ward] any good,” Jordan said. They all have something in common. They haven’t been found yet.”
Pipkin, 32, went missing earlier this year after being last seen at an IGA within eyesight of Saturday’s vigil. Randy Gale Robinson, 46, was charged last week with obstruction of justice. An arrest warrant said Robinson prevented, impeded or interfered with the investigation on Jan. 26 by providing false, misleading or inaccurate information about Pipkin’s disappearance and his activities during the evening hours of Jan. 16. Malinowski went missing last August. His car, a 1996 Chevrolet Beretta, was found “completely burned” along Valley Forge Road on Sept. 2. Ward, the third person Jordan referenced, has been missing since June 2007. Ward's car was pulled from a boat landing on the Pee Dee River but he has not been found.
“We, as a family, should not have to fight for their justice because they can’t speak for themselves,” Jordan said, adding he didn’t want people to misunderstand his passion and frustration. “I’m not blaming the [police]. They can’t get their job done because they don’t have the resources.”
Jordan said he is working with the family of Heather Elvis, who went missing Dec. 18 from Peachtree Landing, to assist police with missing persons cases.
After reading a list of missing people, Jordan re-iterated how having a missing person in the family is a tough thing to handle.
“All of these families, they lost someone,” he said. “And it’s not like you have a death in the family where you have a funeral. None of these families... got to have a funeral.”
Patricia Robinson read a poem titled “For the Missing Child” as part of the vigil. Her personalized writing style drew attention to specific Horry County cases.
“And because this is a vacation spot/drawing all kinds of people to the oceans waters, so hot,” she wrote. “What we got to remember is/God loves our precious kids. Yes! God loves [Britanee] Drexel, Elvis, Kareem and Zachary/ as we question why this also happened to Angie. These children who didn’t do anything but laugh and smile/this is why we come together, for the missing child.”
Jordan said he is determined to make sure families who have to deal with a missing person in the future will be better equipped.
“All these families, we’re looking for answers,” Jordan said. “We shouldn’t have to be at this point. I’m past the part of being angry. I’m frustrated with the system... What we’re looking for is justice.”