In the minutes just after Luh Endang Susiani was kidnapped in her own car, police officers quickly fell behind in the effort to find the man who took her at gunpoint.
But authorities were hampered by unique circumstances: The Indonesian migrant worker’s boyfriend who witnessed the carjacking could speak only broken English, and he didn’t have a phone. He was scared and out of breath by the time he found a North Charleston Police Department patrolman a half-mile away.
Even then, he had difficulty relaying descriptions that could have led others to spot the Toyota Camry as it sped away from the building where Susiani was doing laundry late Friday.
Twenty minutes had already passed by the time officers distributed the information through radio broadcasts and a national database.
Those minutes turned into hours, and no one had reported seeing the black sedan. Investigators then used technology to track down the 31-year-old woman. They triangulated her cellphone signal and sent deputies to an Interstate 26 entrance ramp near Summerville. They saw her in plain view on the roadside.
But by then, it was too late. The woman who had traveled to the U.S. to earn money for loved ones’ college tuition was dead.
“The cellphone gave us a general area, and that’s how we ended up there,” said Capt. Rick Ollic of the Berkeley County Sheriff’s Office, which is handling Susiani’s slaying. “But any passerby could have seen the body.”
Tyler Brown-Kelly, 27, of St. George faces several charges, including kidnapping and murder, in connection with the death early Saturday. An arrest affidavit quoted witnesses who said Brown-Kelly had to take the desperate measure to get a ride to a Reevesville nightclub, where Susiani’s Toyota later was found.
Brown-Kelly has a history of driving with a suspended license and taking vehicles that don’t belong to him, according to the State Law Enforcement Division.
Investigators think Susiani was shot in the back of her head near the interstate ramp from Jedburg Road where her lifeless body was discovered, according to Ollic.
The bullet that killed Susiani wasn’t the only one that was fired.
One grazed the skin on her back but didn’t badly injure her, Berkeley County Coroner Bill Salisbury said.
Ollic added that Susiani suffered multiple gunshot wounds.
The information offers little peace of mind for friends who have asked why Susiani would be killed by a stranger who simply was looking for transportation.
“Unfortunately, that’s something we don’t know yet,” Ollic said.
Jaeny Desjardin, a friend of Susiani’s, said she left her family in Bali and came to South Carolina less than two years ago. Susiani had worked at an Asian restaurant and sent money home.
“Once again, her family has to let her go,” Desjardin said, “but this time it’s forever.”