A S.C. Highway Patrol trooper’s firing Tuesday was related to his investigation of the death of a woman who was found frozen in a deer stand in Horry County, according to Sherri Iacobelli, SCHP communications director.
Lance Cpl. R.W. Batchelor was terminated on Tuesday for not properly following “protocol with his supervisors, the Callahan family and local law enforcement,” Iacobelli said.
Stephanie Callahan, 24, of Loris was found dead Feb. 22 in a tree stand in the woods off Morgan Road, Horry County Deputy Coroner Tony Hendrick said. But she died sometime Feb. 19, which is when her vehicle was found crashed in the area, he said.
Callahan did not have any injuries that she suffered in the vehicle crash, and the cause of death is likely to be hypothermia, but officials are waiting test results to confirm that, he said.
Officials suspect Callahan’s vehicle crashed early on Feb. 19, but said she was last heard from the day before.
The trooper apparently didn’t follow up on Callahan’s address after finding the crashed vehicle, according to Iacobelli.
She said the trooper deviated from the agency’s protocol and procedures when he failed to email the collision report and the abandoned vehicle report to the first sergeant; attempt to locate and notify the owner and/or family members at the address of the registered owner of the abandoned vehicle that was involved in the collision; and notify local law enforcement of the situation.
In the initial report, Cpl. Sonny Collins with the S.C. Highway Patrol said troopers were called to the crash about 2:30 a.m. Thursday and found Callahan’s vehicle had struck a ditch and tree.
There was no one around the vehicle and the trooper and Horry County Fire Rescue officials searched the area, but did not locate anyone, Collins said. The trooper checked the hospital to see if someone was taken by private vehicle there from the crash, but did not find anyone.
Collins said the trooper reported that he went to the address listed with the S.C. Department of Motor Vehicles for the car, but did not find anyone at that location. The trooper also reported he found that Callahan had moved, but did not file a change of address.
Iacobelli said the address on the vehicle registration is Callahan’s correct address.
“In our initial release of information, we had been told by the trooper that he followed protocol, and that account was the information we released to the media,” Iacobelli said. “However, we later learned of inconsistencies in the trooper’s account that resulted in an internal investigation by the SCDPS Office of Professional Responsibility.”
Batchelor joined the Highway Patrol in 2006 and was assigned to Troop Five, Post D, in Horry County, Iacobelli said.