Shelton Sanders
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Shelton Sanders, a magistrate’s son who worked at the University of South Carolina medical school, disappeared in June 2001.
msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 10/7/2005 5:27:45 PM ET 2005-10-07T21:27:45

South Carolina authorities charged a man with murder this week in connection with the disappearance of a college student.

Mark Anthony Richardson, 30, was arrested Wednesday and charged with shooting his former roommate, Shelton John Sanders, to death in June 2001. Richardson’s initial court appearance was scheduled for Monday.

Sanders’ body has not been found, and Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott said it may never be.

Sanders, a black man who was 25 when he disappeared, was the subject of an MSNBC.com investigation last year into media coverage of missing persons cases. The report highlighted the disproportionate attention news outlets gave to the cases of young white women.

Sanders’ case received scant notice outside his small hometown of Rembert, S.C., even though he was a high-achieving student at the University of South Carolina who worked as a technician in the Department of Neuropsychiatry and Behavioral Science, and despite his father’s prominence as a county magistrate. Meanwhile, the disappearance of a white, female USC student with a similar academic record has continued to receive national attention more than a dozen years after she vanished in 1992.

The report quoted numerous journalism executives and scholars as saying there was a clear pattern of media disregard for the cases of missing persons who were minorities.

No body, no motive
Sanders was last seen in a Columbia neighborhood where he was helping a friend plan a bachelor party. His car was found two years later at an apartment complex several miles away.

According to an arrest warrant, records indicate that Richardson was using his cellular telephone in the area where the car was found not long after Sanders was killed. Richardson has said he was at his home with Sanders when neighbors said they heard several gunshots, Lott said.

Lott said deputies did not have a motive for the alleged killing, but he said several people told investigators that Richardson said he was going to kill one of his friends.

MSNBC.com’s Alex Johnson and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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