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Missing Tampa Student's Body Found In South Carolina Miles Away From Her Torched Car

The University of South Florida student went missing after FaceTime call to her mother from Myrtle Beach in mid-September.

By Megan Carpentier
Missing Tampa Student's Body Found In South Carolina

The investigation into the disappearance and death of a Tampa-area college student who was visiting South Carolina is ongoing after an autopsy of her body proved inconclusive this week.

Sheridan Wahl, 21, was reported missing by her mother shortly after 11:30 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 19, after the younger woman had reportedly driven to Myrtle Beach to visit her father. A police report about her call says that Wahl's mother told police that she'd last had contact with her daughter around 1p.m. when they FaceTimed from outside the South Ocean Boulevard Rent Me Superstore, which sits just south of the southern entrance of the Myrtle Beach Boardwalk along the Atlantic Ocean.

Wahl's mother told police that the business had refused to rent her daughter a scooter because she wasn't wearing shoes, and that she was planning on immediately returning to Florida — which was more than an eight-hour drive. Superstore employees confirmed to CBS affiliate WMBF in Myrtle Beach that they provided surveillance footage to police, but couldn't confirm Wahl's visit on Sept. 19; they did say they spoke to her father the following day.

Wahl's mother told police that she advised her daughter to stay the night in Myrtle Beach and drive home the next day; however, in a Facebook post announcing Wahl was missing on Sept. 20, she stated that the family wasn't sure if her daughter had started the return to Florida.

Wahl's mother told police, that after the FaceTime call, all of her attempts to reach her daughter went to voicemail. She said that Wahl never went to her father's house, but that he and a friend had been trying to find her "all day." She also reportedly told police that Wahl was driving a red 2018 Toyota Corolla with Florida plates.

Meanwhile, at 2:05 p.m. on Sept. 19, a Florence County, South Carolina deputy was dispatched to the scene of a suspicious fire in a field in Scranton, South Carolina — a 55-mile drive from the South Ocean Drive Rent Me Superstore in Myrtle Beach, on the GPS-recommended route back to I-95 (the fastest way to Tampa). An incident report states that the call came into police at approximately 1:55 p.m.

Upon arriving at the scene, Florence County Sheriff's Deputy James Bessenger wrote that he observed a burgundy Toyota Corolla burned in a cornfield ditch, but the car had no plates and its vehicle identification number was unreadable.

Just before noon on Monday, Sept. 20, Myrtle Beach police released a statement that it had turned the case over to the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, saying that "it was determined that Wahl had left our jurisdiction safely."

At 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 21, the Florence County Sheriff dispatched Bessenger and other officers to the Hannah-Salem Friendfield Fire Department Station 1 — 10 miles east, toward Myrtle Beach, along the same local highway near which the car was discovered — in response to reports of a female body being found. According to the incident report, the responding officers were informed on the way that it might be the body of a missing Florida woman. Three fire department personnel met the officers and confirmed they had done nothing more than confirm that the woman did not have a pulse, and directed the office to an area behind their training tower.

Bessenger observed the body of a woman with blonde hair, no shoes, orange shorts, and a brown tank top lying face down, with a brown hat and sunglasses lying nearby. Her skin, he said, was mottled — indicating to him that she had been there for some period of time.

The Florence County coroner identified her as Wahl later that day, according to ABC affiliate WPDE. An autopsy was performed on Friday at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, WBMF reported

"The manner and cause of death in the Sheridan Wahl case is pending additional postmortem studies and investigation at this time," Florence County coroner Keith von Lutcken said in a statement on Monday, Sept. 27, reported NBC affiliate WBTW in Myrtle Beach.

The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division is leading the ongoing investigation into Wahl's disappearance and death. In response to a request for comment by Oxygen.com, they said that no further information was available while the investigation was ongoing.