Dara Watson spent the last moments of her life in the Mount Pleasant home she shared with her former fiance, David Hedrick. That's where on Feb. 6 or 7 Hedrick shot her once in the head, killing her, police said Saturday.
Hedrick then stuffed the lifeless body of the 30-year-old woman, who reportedly had called off their wedding, into her sport utility vehicle and drove to an isolated spot in the Francis Marion National Forest, said Mount Pleasant Police Chief Harry Sewell.
Hedrick then pulled out a shovel, dug a shallow grave about 60 yards away, dumped her body into it and buried her. Then he set the vehicle ablaze and walked out of the woods. Passers-by reported seeing him come out of the woods carrying a shovel.
Speculation about a body found near the burned vehicle Friday was put to rest when Sewell and Charleston County Coroner Rae Wooten confirmed the body was Watson's.
The identification followed a more than weeklong search for Watson, who was last seen leaving her mother's home in Boone, N.C., on Feb. 6.
The Watson case has not been straightforward. During the period when her whereabouts were unknown, since she left Boone, texts were made from her phone, her SUV was found burned and Hedrick was found dead in the couple's home.
Searchers found a body Friday, and Sewell said Saturday that dental records were used to identify it as Watson's. He said Hedrick shot her to death in a home the couple shared in Rivertowne, took her to the woods off Halfway Creek Road, buried her, then torched her vehicle.
Wooten said the cause of death was a single gunshot wound to the head. There were no other signs of violence or trauma on her body. Her death has been ruled a homicide.
Sewell said the area where Watson's body was found previously had been searched. But heavy rain settled the ground and revealed new evidence. "We weren't giving up on that area," he said.
Watson was an accountant employed by Verge Solutions. Her Facebook page presented a woman who had been an adventurous world traveler, with photos showing her on trips to Mount Everest, the Galapagos Islands, Australia, Germany, Italy, Costa Rica and Peru.
Sewell and Wooten asked that Watson's family be given privacy as they grieve.
Hedrick, 34, fatally shot himself in the head Feb. 10 in the North Creek Drive home the couple shared after being questioned by police about Watson's disappearance.
Sewell said there was evidence Hedrick was planning to leave town after having shot Watson. A resignation letter was found on his computer, for example.
Hedrick had been employed at Palmetto Surety Corp. since 2005, when he worked in sales and marketing. He was named the Daniel Island company's president and CEO in 2008.
Hedrick continued a ruse of Watson being alive in the days after he killed her by sending text messages from her cellphone, Sewell said. Her cellphone was found by divers Thursday in a pond near the couple's home.
The pistol Hedrick used in his suicide is being analyzed for a ballistic comparison to Watson's fatal injury, Sewell said.
Sewell thanked all the law enforcement officers who worked on the case. "They did not stop. They did remarkable work day and night," he said. The team worked "like looking for family members."
The next step in the investigation is forensic analysis of the evidence, he said, "tying all the strings so we can answer all the questions."