Bodies found in submerged car in Hollywood creek identified as 2 missing men

Investigators pulled a SUV from the Toogoodoo Creek in Hollywood. (Glenn Smith/Staff)

The two men discovered in a submerged vehicle in a Hollywood creek have been identified as the men who had been reported missing earlier this week.

Charleston County Coroner Kimberley Rhoton confirmed the bodies inside the gold Ford Explorer pulled out of the Toogoodoo Creek on Friday are Otis Brown, 22, and 26-year-old Joshua Fenley, both of Adams Run.

Both men died of drowning and the autopsy revealed there is no evidence of foul play, according to Rhoton. Both men had been missing since May 28.

A fainting woman slumped to the pavement and shrieks of despair filled the air Friday as rescue crews pulled a dripping Ford Explorer from the depths of Toogoodoo Creek, marking a grim end to a search for two missing men.

Relatives said they were sure it was Fenley and his 22-year-old nephew Brown. What’s more, friends and family seemed convinced that foul play had a part in the two men’s deaths. They said the Explorer had been damaged on one side, and they knew of no reason why either Brown or Fenley would have gone anywhere near the Toogoodoo boat landing on Yonges Island.

“They had to have been chased here,” Patricia Smalls, a cousin to both men, said, shaking her head, “Life don’t mean nothing to nobody no more.”

Rhonda Fenley Brown sat in a folding chair, her head hung low, as emergency workers inspected the vehicle on land. She knew in her heart that her son, Otis, and her brother, Josh, were inside. She also felt certain someone else was responsible for that happening.

“Something happened to them,” she said. “My son would never come out this way.”

Brown and Fenley, both of Adams Run, had been staying with relatives on America Street in Charleston, according to city police. They left the house Saturday, saying they were going to a wedding in Ravenel.

They were later seen at a wedding reception in Rantowles and then at a party at Elijah’s Social Club on Yonges Island, according to police. Then they just disappeared.

Calls to their cellphones from relatives went unanswered, and no trace of the gold Ford Explorer that Brown had been driving could be found.

Investigators had been searching the area for the past couple of days, looking in bodies of water, woods and other spots for possible clues to the men’s disappearance. They came across the Explorer, submerged in water, early Friday afternoon and called in a dive team to help recover the vehicle.

Rhonda Fenley Brown was speaking on the phone with a detective when he suddenly suggested she meet him at the tree-lined boat landing along Parishville Road. He wouldn’t say much more, but she knew in her gut what they had found.

So she went there with relatives and joined a crowd of about 50 people pressing along the chain-link fence, as the entrance to the landing had been sealed off with crime scene tape. Police boats plied the water, divers bobbed in wet suits and a large tow truck sat parked on the boat ramp waiting for cargo.

The crowd pressed closer as the truck’s motor fired up and the shape of a vehicle emerged from the dark water, the tow chains grinding as they hauled it ashore.

“Oh Lord, no,” one woman wailed.

Other cries sounded, slicing through the humid air. An aunt of the one of the missing men fainted and fell to the ground. Paramedics rushed in to help. Onlookers sobbed and hugged one another. One woman clutched a crying baby to her breast.

Then, a hush fell over the crowd and they stared in silence as firefighters draped a plastic tarp around the Explorer so the bodies could be removed in private, with dignity.

Natalie Caula contributed to this story. Reach Glenn Smith at 937-5556 or Twitter.com/glennsmith5.