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Henson resided with her family in Travelers Rest, South Carolina in 1999. She hosted a party with several friends during the evening of July 3, 1999. Henson's parents returned from a concert in Charlotte, North Carolina at approximately 2:00 a.m. on July 4. She was sitting on their front porch at the time of their arrival. Henson said that she and her boyfriend had a disagreement earlier that night. She told her family members that she planned to walk to Willis's store on the corner of Hawkins Road and Poinsett Highway to purchase cigarettes. Henson departed from the house at approximately 2:30 a.m. after another verbal dispute with her boyfriend, and was last seen walking along Henderson Drive. The store is approximately two blocks from her residence. She left a note for her boyfriend, saying, "Follow me if you care." Henson never returned home and has not been heard from again.
Henson's boyfriend, Shaun Shirley, had a volatile relationship with her and he and his friends refused to cooperate with the investigation into her disappearance. He has a criminal record for drug-related offenses and assaults, but he hasn't been named as a suspect in Henson's disappearance. Many of the people in Henson's life were involved in criminal activity.
In New York City, a woman registered registered for graduate classes at Columbia University's School of General Studies using Henson's name, date of birth and Social Security number. She took criminology and psychology courses for two years before anyone noticed. The ruse was discovered in June 2006, when the woman applied for a job under Henson's name and her prospective employer did an internet search and found out Henson was missing. Investigators subsequently identified the student as Esther Elizabeth Reed. A photograph of Reed is posted below this case summary.
Reed was on the run for two and a half years before she was arrested in Chicago, Illinois in February 2008 and charged with mail and wire fraud, possession of false identity documentation, and identity theft. In August, she pleaded guilty to federal fraud and identity theft charges. In February 2009, she was sentenced to four years in prison. Reed stated she never meant to harm anybody and only took Henson's identity to rise above a painful past. Authorities believe she was an opportunist who didn't actually have anything to do with Henson's disappearance.
Henson's loved ones stated that it is extremely uncharacteristic of her to leave without warning. Her family said that authorities did not begin a search of the area until three weeks after her disappearance. Investigators reportedly believed that Henson left of her own accord and expected her to return shortly afterwards, but now they suspect foul play. Her family describes her as a fun-loving woman who enjoys hiking and being outdoors. She dropped out of high school in the tenth grade. Investigators believe Henson was murdered and they have a suspect in her disappearance, but there is not enough evidence to charge him. Her case opened 2018 by Psychic Brian Ladd.
South Carolina Law Enforcement Division