MONCKS CORNER — Within 24 hours of finding the bodies of Kadie Major and her infant daughter along a railroad track on Jan. 17, 2008, authorities told the young mother's family that her death was a suicide that had apparently claimed her child's life as well. It seemed like a closed case.
To investigators, all indications seemed to point to the pregnant 26-year-old throwing herself in front of a passing train while battling crippling postpartum depression. The force of the railroad cars threw 10-month-old River into a nearby creek.
Eleven years later, officials are far less certain.
Major's mother, Vicky Hall, and a private detective uncovered new information that led to a re-examination of the case on national television and a subsequent decision by the Berkeley County Sheriff's Office to reopen the investigation. And this time, detectives are looking into whether someone else — someone close — was involved in the deaths of Kadie, her daughter and the unborn child she planned to call Aadon.
Not even a mile away from Hall's home, off to the side of the railroad tracks, is a makeshift memorial for her daughter and grandchildren: a weathered wooden cross that reads "John 3:16. Kadie, River, Aadon. In his arms since Jan. 16, 2008." Beneath it is a statue of a cherub, covered in dirt and dust from passing CSX and Amtrak trains.
Hall still hasn't gotten used to that daily sound of a train whistle echoing above the pines. The noise still pierces her heart.
When authorities found Kadie, she wore a dark blue hoodie, a pair of jeans and a black zippered coat. It had been cold the night before. Her body lay beside the track with a nearly 2-foot cut on her abdomen and a laceration on her inside thigh. Her wedding rings were in her pocket.
River was dressed in a white turtleneck, pink overalls and pink shoes. They found her 50 yards away from her mother, floating motionless in the stream close by the rails, according to copies of the autopsy.
Kadie's white 2006 Chevrolet Colorado pickup was parked close to Hall's home, at the end of nearby Oakley Road. A religious book sat inside the cab, along with a diaper bag and nearly $1,000 in cash in various envelopes, according to the case file.
Rick Ollic, a former Berkeley County sheriff's captain who is now chief of the Moncks Corner Police Department, said a note in Kadie's pocket contained scribblings about spiritual warfare and the Antichrist. The initial theory was Kadie jumped toward the side of the train and the impact hurled River into the creek.
Beneath the makeshift cross is another item, one that Hall didn't put there. It's a pale, plastic baby doll with a hole gouged out of the stomach.
She said it "creeps her out," because the day before Kadie died, her daughter got an ultrasound. She called Hall to tell her that she would be the grandmother to a baby boy.
In the years after her daughter's death, something ate at Hall. Kadie had not seemed despondent to her, and she wondered why investigators had been so quick to rule the death a suicide. Hall's suspicions wouldn't go away, so she decided to investigate Kadie's death.
After 11 years of questions and research, and with the assistance of a crew from CBS' "48 Hours," a show about Hall's findings aired in March. The evidence was noteworthy, and the Berkeley County Sheriff's Office began a new investigation. But the national attention has also caused the Sheriff's Office and nearly everyone involved in the original investigation to suddenly go quiet, refusing to discuss possible missteps with the initial probe and what they are doing now to rectify that.
After learning about the original investigation, something didn't sit right with Hall.
Kadie's husband, 36-year-old Aaron Major, told investigators in an interview several days after the deaths that she may have had "postpartum depression." He said that might have explained why she was acting strange and why she supposedly jumped toward the train.
"It was just like all of a sudden, she just got real paranoid, and, you know, quit trustin' people and stuff," he told investigators.
Sheriff Duane Lewis told The Post and Courier that Aaron is now the only suspect in the case. Aaron hasn't answered phone calls from The Post and Courier or handwritten notes.
'The War Room'
Jessica Sanders was motherless when she was in her 20s. Sanders believes that she and Hall met right when each needed someone most.
Sanders, a mother of five, works as a private investigator, specializing in unfaithful spouses.
Seven years after Kadie's death, Sanders decided to use her talents to help Hall with her quest for answers. Hall still had a giant box of documents sitting in her home. The pair decided to open it back up and send it to "48 Hours."
"We knew there was more to this," Sanders said. "So we got to work."
One room in Hall's house was transformed into what they call "The War Room." The walls were painted with whiteboard paint and were covered in timelines and transcriptions. Sanders and Hall estimate they've collected more than 1,000 documents related to the case.
"I feel like I'm right there, living it along with her," Sanders said.
Page by page, recording by recording, and interview after interview, they found that law enforcement's explanation didn't add up.
The last time Hall spoke with Kadie was at 6:43 p.m. Jan. 16, 2008. Hall was driving home from an Applebee's restaurant when she received a call from her daughter. Kadie wanted to go to dinner with her mom. Hall had just grabbed takeout, so they didn't meet up.
"Everything was just real normal," Hall said, tearing up as she remembered the phone call. "There was no alarm. But when I did hang up, I had this little gut feeling. Like, for some reason, I felt like I was cutting her off too early."
At 1:44 a.m., Aaron knocked on Hall's door. She said Aaron told her that Kadie was hysterical and paranoid. She thought someone was coming to kill her and then she took off, he told Hall. Then he started going on about conspiracy theories, such as notions that the government blew up the Twin Towers and that the Antichrist was coming, Hall said.
"It didn't make sense to me," she said. "His wife is missing and he's talking about this conspiracy stuff."
In the morning, the entire Hall family was searching for Kadie and River. Aaron told Hall he was headed to Columbia to check hotels there. Everyone scattered.
Then, at 11:31 a.m., Hall said Aaron called her to say he just heard on the radio that two bodies had been found after being hit by a train.
"I (was) on my way, driving through Summerville, that's when I heard on talk radio — 94.3 that there had been a person and a young child hit by the train in Berkeley County," he later recalled to investigators. "I didn't even wanna think about that. ... I mean, I was worried. 'Cause they said a young child. And I just thought that was weird."
When Sanders and Hall later examined the investigative case file in 2015, they got a look at Kadie and Aaron's history on the couple's shared computer. At 10:05 a.m., on the day Hall and authorities were searching for Kadie and River, Aaron went back home, Sanders said. He did a computer search for "WSC talk radio" and then, two minutes later, for "two dead in Berkeley County."
Sanders and Hall found that suspicious because he had searched for news about the discovery of the bodies more than an hour after he had called Hall to say he had just heard about it on the radio.
Lt. Dean Kokinda, who would re-investigate the case in 2018, told "48 Hours" that authorities later determined there was no radio report.
"I think he wanted Kadie and River found," Kokinda told "48 Hours."
Hall routinely tried to share suspicions such as these with Capt. Ollic but was ignored, according to the "48 Hours" report.
Looking deeper into the computer search history, Sanders also found listings for 9/11 conspiracy theories and the Jeremiah Project, a website about Bible teachings, the end of times and details about a new world order.
The only times those websites were looked at was when Aaron would have been home, Sanders said. She believes the note found in Kadie's pocket was her writing down what she found on her computer's search history.
There was also something else Hall found strange. She remembered seeing Aaron's hand swollen the morning deputies discovered Kadie. But Ollic said Aaron's hand was injured two days later, when he was picking out coffins for Kadie and River.
"We inquired with the funeral director and she said, 'Yes, I witnessed him punch a cinder block wall,'" Ollic told "48 Hours."
Hall said the funeral was most troubling of all. Aaron wanted Aadon, the unborn child, publicly on display with Kadie's casket. The day of the funeral, he was eating McDonald's in the front row, sipping from a large cup, Hall said.
Aaron told investigators Kadie seemed to have gotten paranoid the week of her death. He explained that she was researching government conspiracies and that "God was telling her to flee to protect the kids," according to a transcript of his interview with investigators. He also discussed postpartum depression with a detective.
But Dr. Christine Case, Kadie's obstetrician, told "48 Hours" that Kadie didn't appear to have signs of a mental breakdown.
"I do not think ... in my professional opinion, that she had any depression or postpartum depression," Case said. She told "48 Hours" that she was never approached by investigators after the incident.
CBS' "48 hours" took an interest in Sanders and Hall's findings. After being approached by the network, Berkeley County decided to re-open the case. Sheriff Lewis assigned Detective Darrell Lewis and Kokinda to take another look.
On Sept. 6, Berkeley County officials said at a press conference that River did not appear to have been hit by the train. Investigators also believed they identified the wrong train that may have hit Kadie in the first place.
"Originally, they said a southbound train hit her," Darrell Lewis told "48 Hours." "The evidence shows it was a northbound train. What else did they get wrong? … What else did they miss?"
While the pathologist who conducted the autopsy recommended that the manner of death reports stay pending, former County Coroner Bill Salisbury labeled Kadie and River's deaths as a suicide and undetermined, respectively.
Salisbury said he would not discuss the case with The Post and Courier.
Coroner George Oliver said it wasn't uncommon for a coroner to make a ruling if the manner of death is still pending from an autopsy. But he did point out that the case had some missteps.
One of the witness statements was made by a woman who claimed to have seen Kadie walk down the tracks. It turned out to be false, Oliver said.
"There was supposedly a witness at one point who saw a female walking either on the railroad tracks or right there in the vicinity of the railroad tracks," Oliver said. "That turned out to be a 12-year-old boy who couldn't remember what day of the week it was. ... Everything wasn't there (with the case) that could have been there."
Oliver has been working closely with Berkeley County's cold case unit. He wouldn't speak to the previous coroner or Ollic's investigation. He has been tasked with potentially overturning Kadie's manner of death.
"Based on the information that he had then it would appear to be a suicide," Oliver said. "I have an open mind. ... I'm not saying I'm going to change it or not going to change."
Oliver will soon be meeting with the doctor who performed the autopsies on Kadie and River, and who recommended the manner of death be left pending. He will then decide if he should overturn the original manner of death.
Hall said the detectives are getting in touch with Amtrak to try to obtain pictures of trains so they can compare parts of the train to injuries that Kadie suffered.
Fighting for Kadie and her babies
After the "48 Hours" program, public agencies and lawyers have been hesitant to speak about the case.
Sheriff Lewis spoke with The Post and Courier and confirmed that Aaron is still the only suspect. He didn't want to speak about the case further because of the national attention it attracted. Lewis said Aaron has not cooperated with authorities yet.
Ollic's administrative assistant, Noel Thomas, did not return multiple phone calls and several emails asking to sit down with the Moncks Corner police chief. He also didn't respond to an email, a note left for him at his office or several voicemails left for him on his cellphone.
A letter sent to "48 Hours" in May 2018 by Moncks Corner attorney E. Mason West and Charleston attorney Gedney M. Howe III identified Aaron as their client. Howe and West recently denied representing Aaron when contacted by The Post and Courier. It is unclear if Aaron has new legal representation.
Several calls to Aaron's cellphone were unanswered and never returned. A note left at his family's residence was not answered.
While others involved with the case remain silent, Hall continues to speak out.
Most moms spent Mother's Day weekend receiving cards, flowers and breakfast in bed, but Hall was trying to rally support for her dead daughter and grandchildren. Hall, a devout churchgoer, missed the service on that Sunday. She said it's too painful.
Hall held a candlelight vigil May 11 at Lacy Park in Moncks Corner. Nearly 50 people gathered and prayed for justice in the case, Hall said. One woman, moved by the scene, sang "In Christ Alone," one of Kadie's favorite songs.
Hall has taken to Facebook to spread awareness. An online petition asking for the town of Moncks Corner to investigate Ollic has more than 3,000 signatures. There's also a $25,000 reward, provided by one of Hall's family members, for any information relating to the case that leads to an arrest.
"The support keeps me going," Hall said. "It's a blessing. It's an honor to know that people are fighting for them."