Authorities believe Nikki McPhatter died of a gunshot wound to the head before her body was burned inside her car in a remote part of Fairfield County, S.C.
According to a preliminary autopsy report, the body of a black female found late Friday had been dead several weeks. Police were led to the scene by witnesses, according to the Charlotte Observer.
McPhatter, who lived in Charlotte, was last heard from May 6 after she traveled to Columbia to end a romantic relationship, friends have said. She called a friend that day to say her car had run out of gas. Two hours later, a bank surveillance camera captured the image of two men trying to use her ATM card.
The Richland County Sheriff’s Department on Friday arrested Theodore Roosevelt Manning IV of Gadsden, S.C., and charged him with McPhatter’s death. The two are believed to have known one another.
The arrest and location of McPhatter’s apparent remains were announced Friday by Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Rodney Monroe.
McPhatter’s disappearance sparked a two-state investigation as police in Columbia and Charlotte searched for clues and asked the public for help locating McPhatter’s 2003 black Honda Accord, which bore the N.C. license plate “PHATTAH.”
The Richland County coroner on Saturday had not positively identified the skeletal remains. However, preliminary testing indicates they belong to an African American woman between the ages of 25 and 40.
McPhatter, 30, worked for US Airways.