Search continues for missing Bennettsville child
For almost a week now, law enforcement and the community at large have been focused on one burning question - “Where is Iyana?” - and one desperate, heartfelt desire - to bring her home.
Eight-year-old Iyana Lowery turned up missing Friday morning, May 5, the same time her mother, Ella Lowery, 36, was found dead inside their home on Craig Circle in Bennettsville.
Ever since, the little girl has been the object of an extensive search involving local, regional, state and federal law enforcement.
Homes, fields, wooded areas, a trash dump and the depths of Lake Paul Wallace have all been subject to their scrutiny. One man, Dwayne Bright, has been charged in connection with Ella Lowery’s death. But as of this morning, there are still no signs of Iyana.
“It’s painful and sad,” said Marlboro County Sheriff Charles Lemon, a 30-plus year veteran of law enforcement. “It’s one of the worst cases I’ve ever worked.”
It all began around 8 a.m. Friday, May 5, when Ella Lowery’s mother came home from work and found her daughter’s body. She had been stabbed to death, Lemon said.
Ella lived at 656 Craig Circle with her mother, her son and daughter. The little boy, who is about 10, was accounted for, having apparently slept through the ordeal. But Iyana was gone.
By that afternoon, the Marlboro County Sheriff’s Office had put out a picture and description of the little girl, with an urgent call for information. More pictures, and more pleas for help, would follow over the next few days.
The SC Law Enforcement Division (SLED) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) quickly got involved. Other agencies that have provided assistance include the McColl and Bennettsville police departments, SBI, SS Highway Patrol and Department of Natural Resources, and many sheriff’s offices from both Carolinas.
A mobile command post was first set up next to Bennettsville Intermediate School on Cheraw Street, and later moved to the Walmart shopping center.
Donations of food and water have poured into the command center and the Sheriff’s Office as people, desperate to help, contributed to the cause in the only way they knew how.
A community prayer vigil, organized in a matter of only hours, drew hundreds of citizens to the front lawn of the Marlboro County Courthouse Sunday evening.
“Missing” posters have been placed on utility poles and in businesses, and social media has been flooded with pictures of Iyana.
The one person who has been charged is Dwayne Jermaine Bright, 36, of North Everett Street, Bennettsville. He was arrested May 7 and charged with murder and possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime in connection with the death of Ella Lowery.
According to Lemon, Bright had been in a relationship with Lowery.
The murder weapon has not been located.
Lemon said officers have been working nearly around the clock, searching and following up on any and all leads. “Our main, top priority is finding Iyana and getting her to her immediate family,” he said.
The sheriff has been “humbled” by the outpouring of support from the community and said there will be a time when the public will be called on to help in the search - but not yet.
“At this point, law enforcement is trying to clear certain areas,” he said. “But there will be a time that I will ask citizens to meet me at Lindsay Park to discuss areas to search.”
He urges anyone with information - no matter how small or insignificant it might seem - to call the Sheriff’s Office immediately. Call 843-479-5605 or 1-888-CRIME-SC.