Friends Hear News of Missing Student's Death - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

12/24/03

Friends Hear News of Missing Student's Death

Friends at the Agape Worship Center Friends at the Agape Worship Center

Human remains found last week on Fort Benning near Columbus are those of Dena Carter and her unborn child. The 24-year-old Georgia Southern University student disappeared in September. Hunters found the remains, and investigators identified them yesterday.

"We're glad she has been located. Our prayers and thoughts will be with Dena's family during this time," said Chief Stan York of the Statesboro PD.

Carter's boyfriend is stationed at Fort Benning with his National Guard unit. Police are not naming any suspects in the case yet.

Carter had lots of friends. They searched for her and worried about her from the start. Now, they're trying to deal with the fact she isn't coming home. WTOC sat down with her church family, who are taking this news as well as you could imagine, and they're looking to each other for help.

As the Agape Worship Center began preparing for Christmas celebration Tuesday night, word started to spread that Carter's body had been identified. "By the time I got back here, it had spread within about 30 minutes, so it was fast," said Pastor Anthony Chavers.

By the time church started, people were getting over the initial shock that their excruciating wait was over. "It's somewhat comforting and then you feel that thing in the pit of your stomach because she's gone, but it's better because you know," said Evelyn Chavers.

"You think back on the times that you talked with her and laughed with her and had church with her," friend Barbara Mosely told us.

But it hasn't been easy, especially on people like her mother, who's been all the way across the country waiting for any shred of news. Paster Chavers has been in touch with her and told us, "She was saying that she was okay, but I know she wasn't. She was saying she was trying to do something to keep her mind busy, because it was kind of heavy on her right now."

The timing couldn't have been worse for those closest to Carter. Her baby, already named Destiny, was due on Christmas Day. "We were excited about that, and now to know that we're not going to have a baby and we're not going to have Dena, it's just horrible," said friend Diane Budgett.

Agape Worship Center's working with Dena's family, trying to figure out when they'll have a memorial service in Statesboro, and then another in California. Members of the church say they're overwhelmed with the support they've been getting from Statesboro and the police department there. They say Carter's mother has been welcomed with open arms and treated as a family member around town.

Reported by: Chris Cowperthwaite, ccowperthwaite@wtoc.com

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