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3 charged with murder, kidnapping in shooting death of Columbia girl

Sanaa Amenhotep.jpg (copy)

Sanaa Amenhotep, 15, was found dead in Lexington County on April 28 after she had been reported missing from her northeast Columbia home April 5. Three people face murder and kidnapping charges in connection to her death. Richland County Sheriff's Department/Provided

COLUMBIA — Sanaa Amenhotep was a friend to those who weren’t friendly to her.

Her name means work of art, a bright light and she exhibited that with a bold style — over-the-top fashion choices, shiny lip gloss and long lashes — those who knew her said.

During a memorial service May 3 at Leevy’s Funeral Home chapel, Sanaa was remembered as an advanced child who learned to walk and read at an early age growing up in New Jersey and someone unafraid to speak her mind.

“She was a huge personality with a heart of gold,” said Gwen Baker, with Revealing Word Ministries. “She was a social butterfly who wasn't afraid to challenge injustice.”

Sanaa was found shot to death in Lexington County on April 28, weeks after she had been reported missing from her northeast Columbia home April 5 after she left in a car with others and didn't return. Authorities believe she died the same day she left home.

Treveon Nelson, 18 of Cayce, and two minors have been charged with murder, kidnapping and related charges in the girl's death, the Lexington County Sheriff's Department said. The agency didn't release the name of the minors — a male and female — because they are younger than 18.

Nelson was arrested April 30 and is being held without bond at Lexington County Detention Center. He also faces charges from the Springdale Police Department of criminal sexual conduct, kidnapping and felony assault related to a separate April 25 incident, a Lexington County sheriff's release said. Both of the minors are in custody, the agency said.

Lexington County Sheriff Jay Koon called the case "a complex and multilayered investigation" involving multiple jurisdictions.

“The suspects knew Sanaa and they all know each other,” Koon said in the release. “We’re glad we have all three of them in custody and charged after a lot of interviews, an extensive search and invaluable help from other agencies.”

The agency said Sanaa was lured from her home April 5 and held in a stolen car before she was shot in a field off of Rish Road in Leesville the same night. Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott said Sanaa probably went willingly at first but that she was ultimately held against her will.

Nelson was also arrested in March and charged by Cayce police with misdemeanor domestic violence and by West Columbia police with unlawfully carrying a handgun, Lexington County court records show. He was freed on his own recognizance on both charges March 24, according to court records.

A memorial service for Sanaa was planned at Doko Meadows Park in Blythewood on May 3 but moved to the funeral home and was streamed live on Facebook because of severe weather.

Sanaa’s mother, Saleemah Graham-Fleming, said during the service that she would push for a state law requiring police to do more at the urging of parents in missing children cases.

She implored children to listen to their parents about the company they keep, for parents not to be afraid to be involved as they need to be in their children’s lives. And she took on the Richland County community.

“We have to do better; we have to stop showing up for people when it’s too late,” Graham-Fleming said.

Yasha Jones Becton, a pastor at Revealing Word Ministries who gave the eulogy, called for a task force that could focus on mentoring youth and understanding law enforcement policies related to missing children.

“Let’s not go through this summer having to bury more children,” Becton said.

Reach Stephen Fastenau at 803-365-3235. Follow him on Twitter @StephenFastenau.

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