Mom was relieved, then angry

Teista Burwell (left), David Kornahrens (right)

Tina Swain spent nearly every day of the past two years relentlessly searching for her missing daughter.

But now that her daughter has been found, Swain is keeping her distance.

Law enforcement officials arrested Teista Swain Burwell, 23, last week in Florida after she was found living under an assumed name with the man authorities had named as a suspect in her disappearance. The Ladson woman was picked up on outstanding Charleston County warrants, and she is being held at Miami-Dade County jail.

Burwell's online mug shot was the first image of her daughter Swain has seen since she disappeared from a parking lot at Northwoods Mall the day after Christmas in 2007.

U.S. marshals called Swain on Friday with the news of her daughter's arrest. Burwell was picked up with David Kornahrens, a 39-year-old fugitive with an extensive criminal record who she dated before her disappearance. Kornahrens also had outstanding charges.

Swain had feared that something had happened to her daughter, but now knows that Burwell went with Kornahrens willingly.

"I was relieved. I was happy she's alive," Swain said. "Then I got angry that she did this. That's not the child I raised."

She loves her daughter but doesn't want to see Burwell right now because she's worried she would say things that would permanently sever their fractured relationship. And she's afraid that Burwell would be angry with her, and blame her for the arrest and for being separated from Kornahrens.

She would be devastated if her daughter was angry with her after she spent an exhausting two years searching for her. As of Monday, Burwell still had not called her mother or any other members of her family, Swain said.

Searching for Burwell had been Swain's driving mission for two years and caused her to quit her job as a security officer. "Her father worked and I looked for Teista from morning to night," she said.

Swain enlisted the help of Jade Zwick, a private investigator and one Burwell's best friends, in the search for Burwell. The pair made phone calls, surfed the Internet, tracked down Kornahrens' past associates, and regularly passed on tips to law enforcement.

Swain moved to Sarasota, Fla., several months ago to work more closely with Zwick. The pair even took a trip to Miami in December to look for Burwell after hearing from past associates of Kornahrens that he had previously lived in an extended-stay hotel there.

The hotel had since closed, but they found a former employee who had recently seen Kornahrens. They canvassed the neighborhood, placing posters in convenience stores and showing people pictures of Burwell and Kornahrens, until a U.S. marshal told them to stop or he would arrest them for impeding an investigation, Swain said.

Details of Burwell's life on the run remain sketchy. She apparently had been using multiple identities and was living under an assumed name with Kornahrens in Miami at the time of her arrest, according to the U.S. Marshals Service.

Kelvin Washington, U.S. marshal for South Carolina, said the pair had established an entirely new life in Florida.

Authorities are still trying to determine how long Burwell and Kornahrens had been living in the area, said Deputy Marshal Amanda Lyons, a Columbia-based public information officer. Lyons said she had no information as to exactly where they were staying or how they supported themselves.

Acting on a tip received last week from investigators in South Carolina, a team of marshals and law enforcement officers from Florida caught up with Burwell and Kornahrens on Friday at a Miami business, Lyons said. They were taken into custody without incident.

Kornahrens was wanted by the Secret Service, Charleston County Sheriff's Office and the state probation and parole department in connection with counterfeiting and strong-arm robbery charges, according to the marshals service. Federal indictments filed in 2008 accuse Kornahrens of passing $6,500 in counterfeit bills in South Carolina in 2006. He is being held in the federal detention center in Miami.

Burwell has four outstanding bench warrants for missing court in Charleston County on three counts of forgery and one count of possession of a stolen motor vehicle, authorities said.

Washington said the pair will have to return to South Carolina to face the charges against them. No date, however, has been set for extradition hearings in Miami to determine when that will happen.

Lt. Tony Phinney from the Dorchester County Sheriff's Office worked on Burwell's missing person's case for the past 10 months. "But every indication we had led us to believe she left willingly," he said.

He knew Kornahrens from a past case and said he has a history of domestic violence and often pursues young women he can control. "I'm just glad nothing happened to her," he said.

Burwell likely would have faced only a few years of probation for her charges had she stayed and faced them. But running away complicated her legal situation. "She got some bad advice" from Kornahrens, he said.

Swain said her daughter is a strong young woman, sometimes even stubborn. She's shocked that Burwell was so in love or obsessed with a man that she decided to disappear with him.

Swain knows the next time she sees her daughter might be in a courtroom at her trial. "It's absolutely heartbreaking."

Reach Diane Knich at 937-5491 or dknich@ postandcourier.com. Reach Glenn Smith at 937-5556 or gsmith@postandcourier.com.