An Aiken resident who allegedly posed as an online escort was arrested for the murder of a man who was found shot to death in Sumter National Forest earlier this week.
Michael Saheem Spears, 22, was stopped in Aiken while driving a vehicle stolen from Orangeburg, according to a news release from the Newberry County Sheriff’s Office. He was arrested for probation violation and receiving stolen goods.
Spears, an Aiken resident, was then transported to the Newberry County Detention Center Thursday where he was charged with murder, kidnapping, armed robbery and possession of a firearm during a violent crime. Jesse O. Sanders' body was found with multiple gunshot wounds Monday morning off of U.S. 176 near Molly’s Rock Picnic Area, which is in Sumter National Forest.
Investigators – through a joint effort by the Newberry County Sheriff’s Office, State Law Enforcement Division, Whitmire police and the Aiken County Sheriff’s Office – believe Sanders, 62, contacted Spears, who had posted an advertisement as an escort on the social media website Backpage. They believe robbery was main motive for the murder.
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Officers went to Sanders’ home in Whitmire and discovered obvious signs of a struggle throughout the house. Investigators believe Spears took Sanders against his will to the location where his body was discovered and killed him there.
Foster called Sanders’ death a “senseless violent crime” that should serve as a warning about the dangers of meeting unknown people through social media.
“This is no way meant to cast dispersion upon anyone,” Foster said. “But meeting someone online is dangerous. People can pretend to be anyone online and you never know who you might really be dealing with. In addition, some people prey on the fact that people who have been duped or placed in compromising situations will most likely not contact the police.”
Foster said the investigation for this case was difficult due to the use of technology but possible with the help of other agencies.
“This is a perfect example of how hard work, communication, and partnerships are crucial to law enforcement in today’s society,” he said.
Law enforcement continues to investigate this case. Anyone with additional information is asked to contact the Newberry County Sheriff’s Office at (803) 321-2211 or www.newberrycountysheriff.com or Crimestoppers of the Midlands at 1-888-CRIMESC.
Spears’ previous convictions include shoplifting, giving false information to a police officer and burglary.
No date has been set for his bond hearing.