LCSO, Gaston Police awaiting answers from Waterloo investigation

Debra Herms Childers

A missing persons case more than two decades old found its way to Laurens County this past week as officials searched a property in Waterloo for the remains of a missing North Carolina woman.

A ground-penetrating radar system was used to look underneath a cement pad that was once the floor of a backyard utility building on a property at the intersection of Lois Lane and Serene Drive. The search was instigated by the Gaston (N.C.) County Police Department, which asked for assistance from the Laurens County Sheriff’s Office.

Sgt. Josh Hamlin, head of Gaston Police’s Criminal Investigation Unit, said the search was part of an investigation in the 1995 disappearance of Debra Herms Childers, who disappeared from Bessemer City, N.C. in March of that year.

Hamlin said interviews with relatives led his department to Waterloo, where resident Carl Edward “Ed” Childers, Sr. could have disposed of his then estranged wife’s body. Ed Childers died in 2012.

“He was a person of interest after her disappearance,” Hamlin said. “Since his death, some of his family members have come forward and we’ve done interviews with them, and they’ve told us that he took her there. We’re operating on a lot of hearsay, but they were all apparently scared of him when he was alive and are just now coming forward.”

An Internet search revealed that Debra Childers, then 40, was last seen driving a 1985 Chevrolet Caprice. The car was discovered on April 9, 1995 in Chester County, S.C.

Authorities were aided in their search by cadaver dogs from the S.C. Search & Rescue Dog Association. The ground-penetrating radar unit was provided by the University of South Carolina Institute of Archaeology & Anthropology, a release from the Laurens County Sheriff’s Office said.

Hamlin said the ground was too wet for the radar system to get a firm read on what lay beneath the cement pad, but operators were returning with it to USC to run the data through a filter that could reveal more information.

“What they’re looking for is an anomaly where the dirt was disturbed,” he said, adding that he expects a report from the radar’s operators as soon as the end of this week.

If an anomaly or anomalies are found, then the investigation would possibly continue with an excavation on the property. At that point, the LCSO could take over the investigation.

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