Episode 053: Sheridan Wahl

September 5, 2022

A young woman goes missing hundreds of miles from home, setting off an investigation that ends with more questions than answers. What happened to Sheridan Wahl?

Episode Media
Sheridan Wahl (Facebook)
Ocean Avenue in Myrtle Beach where Sheridan was last seen by a friend (Google Maps)
Distance between where Sheridan was last seen in Myrtle Beach and where her body was found (Google Maps)
Hannah-Salem-Friendfield Fire Station (Google Maps
Distance between the fire station and where Sheridan’s car was found on Keith Lane (Google Maps)
Highway 378 in front of the fire station (Google Maps)
The abandoned fire station training tower (Google Maps)
Episode Sources
Episode Transcript

Welcome back to Bite-Sized Crime. This week I’m bringing you the story of a young woman who went missing far from home, and an investigation that ended with more questions than answers. This episode discusses sensitive topics, so listener discretion is advised.

In the fall of 2021, 21-year-old Sheridan Wahl was studying marketing at the University of South Florida in St. Petersburg, just across the bay from Tampa where she lived with her mom, Kelly. When she wasn’t studying for class, Sheridan was making music, writing songs and recording covers to post on her Instagram account. Her friends described her as spontaneous and fun, and her social media accounts are filled with smiling selfies and witty captions. 

But lately, Sheridan had been acting strangely. Her mom said that Sheridan had been having trouble keeping track of time and would forget to show up for work, which was unlike her. She started talking about time travel and seemed to be hyper focused on being able to get around faster. More than once, Kelly recalled feeling like Sheridan was “not in her normal state of mind.” 

On Saturday, September 18th, Sheridan told Kelly that she was going to visit her father in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. With little traffic, the drive would take about 9 hours. But based on her phone activity, her journey was not quite so straightforward.

Around 4pm, Sheridan called her father Jeff and told him she was on her way to see him. At 9:25pm – five hours later – she called again and told him she’d be there in 30 minutes. But according to Jeff, Sheridan was still in Tampa. Her explanation was that she was a witch in a “time vortex” and that she could travel through time. Jeff thought it was strange – he had never heard his daughter talk like this before – but he figured she’d show up on her own time. 

An hour later, Sheridan called her dad from Orlando, but Jeff told her she was going the wrong way; that route would add an extra hour to her drive. Sheridan told her dad that time was constant, and she’d see him in ten minutes.

After that, Jeff didn’t hear from his daughter for several hours. She sent him a text at 3:41am that said she was stopping to get a hotel for the night, but she didn’t say where she was or what hotel she was staying at. If she had been driving along I-95 since Orlando, the timeline would have put her somewhere around Orangeburg County, South Carolina. But wherever she stayed, she was back on the road later that morning.

At 10:43am, Sheridan called Jeff again and said she’d meet him at the Backyard Sports Bar in Myrtle Beach in two hours. 

At 1pm, Kelly FaceTimed Sheridan to see if she had made it to Myrtle Beach. Sheridan told her mom that she wanted to rent a scooter and ride around the boardwalk, but the employees at the Rent Me Superstore denied her service because she wasn’t wearing any shoes. She said she was just going to drive back to Florida, but Kelly encouraged her to at least stay one night in Myrtle Beach before making the long drive home.

Sadly, that would be the last time Kelly spoke with her daughter. And Jeff would be left waiting at the sports bar alone.

By Sunday night, Kelly and Jeff realized that something was very wrong. All calls to Sheridan were going straight to voicemail, and neither of them had heard from their daughter in hours. Finally, just before midnight, Kelly called the Myrtle Beach Police Department and filed a missing persons report.

Investigators began retracing Sheridan’s steps around Myrtle Beach. They retrieved surveillance video from the Rent Me Superstore and confirmed that she had indeed tried to rent a scooter around 11am on the 19th. One employee described Sheridan as “a little spacey” as she danced around the store and talked to other customers. They said that at first, Sheridan was alone in the store, but a while later she came back with someone else, and the two drove off in a dark-colored truck.

With the help of Sheridan’s father Jeff, investigators were able to track down the person seen with Sheridan at the rental store, a man named William Page who had been Sheridan’s neighbor back in Florida but who now lived in Myrtle Beach.

According to Page, he woke up on the morning of September 19th to find that he had missed three calls from Sheridan at around 4am. He texted her to see what was going on, and she told him she was on her way to Myrtle Beach. He went back to sleep for a few hours, then called Sheridan back. She told him that she had left Florida to get away from her mom, claiming that Kelly was “shocking her brain”. She then asked if he would meet her at the rental store later.

He agreed, and when they met up, he noticed that Sheridan was barefoot and seemed different than the last time he’d seen her. In his statement to police, Page said that Sheridan “looked lost”. 

He took Sheridan to breakfast, then she insisted that they return to the rental store so she could get a scooter. From there, Page’s story matched what store employees had recounted – Sheridan began acting strangely, dancing around and acting like she was in another world. He also said that Sheridan kept talking about her “spiritual advisor”, saying that they had traveled through a vortex together, enabling her to travel from Tampa to Myrtle Beach in just one hour.

Then, the conversation took a turn. Sheridan told Page that her spiritual advisor had been “found in a bathtub with her throat cut by a male”. Page realized that this so-called spiritual advisor was a figment of Sheridan’s imagination. 

After that, Page said that Sheridan left. She said her mom had a heart attack and she had to get back to her. In the official report, investigators noted that Page said Sheridan left by herself, but a store employee said they left together in a dark-colored truck. There is no other mention of this in the report, so it could just mean that one of them was misremembering. Page’s phone records confirm that he never left Myrtle Beach, so I’m inclined to believe his account.

Based on witness statements, Myrtle Beach police determined that Sheridan had left the city, which meant that her case was now out of their jurisdiction. It was immediately transferred to the South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division, also known as SLED. With greater resources and state-wide jurisdiction, agents were able to cover more ground in the investigation. And it wouldn’t be long before they had a new, disturbing lead.

Around 2pm on Sunday, September 19th, the Florence County Sheriff’s Office received a call about a vehicle fire along Highway 378 in Coward, South Carolina, about 50 miles west of Myrtle Beach. The responding officer found a burgundy Toyota Corolla abandoned in a ditch along a cornfield off Keith Road, completely burned out. The license plate had been removed, and the deputy couldn’t make out the vehicle identification number. The car was towed to the sheriff’s office impound lot, where investigators later determined that it was registered to Sheridan Wahl. It would be another 9 hours before she would be reported missing.

Once SLED had control of the case, they were able to connect the burning car to the missing woman. It was clear that something bad had happened to Sheridan Wahl, but what? 

By now, Sheridan’s family was desperate to find her. Jeff Wahl went to the rental store in Myrtle Beach to talk with employees, hoping for any clue as to what had happened to his daughter. She had been so close, but she’d disappeared before they could meet up as planned. Hundreds of miles away, Kelly Wahl was doing all she could from a distance, posting on social media and asking everyone in the Myrtle Beach area to keep an eye out for any sign of Sheridan. 

On the morning of Tuesday, September 21st, a firefighter with the Hannah-Salem-Friendfield Fire Department saw something odd in the grass behind the fire station. At first, he thought it was a piece of trash, perhaps something that had blown off the road, but as he got closer, he realized that it was a small, brimmed hat. A few feet away, next to the training tower, lay a young woman, face-down in the grass.

The firefighter immediately ran inside and called for the deputy fire chief. Pulling on gloves, they checked the woman for a pulse, but it was clear from her mottled skin that she had been deceased for several days. Wisely, they didn’t attempt to move her body; they contacted the Florence County Sheriff’s Office and reported that they may have found the missing woman from Florida.

The responding officers roped off the scene and began cataloging the evidence. The woman had blonde hair and was wearing a brown tank top and orange shorts. A pair of sunglasses was lying in the grass nearby. She was barefoot and didn’t have any sort of identification, but investigators were confident that this was Sheridan Wahl.

Florence County Sheriff T.J. Joye called Jeff Wahl and told him that a body had been found, and they believed it to be Sheridan. The family was devastated. Kelly posted an update to her Facebook page that read, “We are heartbroken beyond belief to share the news that our beloved Sheridan Lynne Wahl has passed. Sheridan was our cherished and loving daughter, sister, niece and friend. She will be missed more than words can ever express.”

Kelly also stated that her daughter’s case was still open, and that the details of Sheridan’s death had not yet been confirmed by law enforcement. Although the question of where Sheridan was had been answered, investigators still needed to know how she had gotten there. What had happened to Sheridan between the time she left Myrtle Beach and the moment she ended up at the bottom of a fire station training tower?

Unfortunately, the fire station did not have any surveillance cameras, but SLED agents conducted interviews with multiple witnesses in the area over the next few days. Slowly, they were able to piece together a timeline of Sheridan’s last hours.

After visiting the rental store on September 19th, Sheridan left Myrtle Beach around 1pm and drove west on Highway 378. This lines up with what she told her mom and William Page – she was headed back to Tampa. But about an hour into her journey, Sheridan stopped just outside the tiny town of Scranton. A home security camera spotted Sheridan’s car driving west down Highway 378. The car appears to slow down before turning onto a dirt driveway and coming to a stop. Eighteen minutes later, a person walks out of the field, but the camera is too far away to see who it is.

We don’t know what caused Sheridan to stop, or what exactly happened in those 18 minutes, but we do know that her car ended up burning in a field, and Sheridan was picked up by a man in a white truck.

Steven Stone had just left a landscaping job and was driving along Highway 378 when he saw smoke coming from the fields between Union School Road and Keith Lane. Then, he spotted a woman in a brown tank top walking down the road towards him. When he stopped to check on her, she told him that she was a goddess who was “trying to save the world”. She then asked him for a ride to Myrtle Beach. Stone told her that he had to be somewhere at 3, but he could take her as far as Kingsburg, about 15 miles away.

However, they didn’t make it that far. Right away, Sheridan started acting strangely. She told Stone that “stuff is going to get kind of crazy.” She told him that she could talk to him through the radio, and she kept repeating that she was a goddess and a witch. Then she said once again that she was trying to save the world, and that she had walked through fire. Stone later told SLED agents that Sheridan didn’t have a mark on her, so he assumed she was speaking figuratively.

After a few minutes, Stone asked Sheridan where he could drop her off, and she told him just to leave her right there in the middle of the road. Obviously he was not going to do that, so he kept driving until he saw the fire station. Sheridan got out of the truck, but she left her phone and keys on the seat. Stone called after her, and she turned around to grab her belongings. She shut the car door behind her, then looked at Stone through the open window and said, “I can’t die, watch this.” To his horror, Sheridan then walked in front of the truck and into oncoming traffic. 

Stone watched as several vehicles swerved to miss her. He held his arm out of his window to try and get the traffic to slow down, and eventually Sheridan made it safely to the other side. As Stone turned his truck around and drove away, he saw that Sheridan had crossed back over to the side where the fire station was. After that, he didn’t see her again.

On first impression, this story sounds completely made up, but I think there’s some truth to it. SLED agents interviewed several witnesses who saw Sheridan get out of the white truck and walk into traffic. One of the witnesses was Walt Perry, who was pulling out of his mother’s driveway on Highway 378 when he spotted a white Toyota Tacoma parked in front of the fire station. He noticed that it was pulling a lawn mower on a trailer, which matches what we know about Steven Stone’s truck. Perry saw a woman in a brown hat get out of the truck and cross the road as cars swerved around her. Perry watched for a moment until she got to the other side, then pulled his own truck out onto the highway. The woman, who we know to be Sheridan, suddenly stepped into the road again and walked in front of his truck. When he swerved to avoid hitting her, she looked at him and smiled. Perry told the SLED agent that he watched her in his rearview mirror and saw that she had run up to the firestation, a cell phone clutched in her hand. 

At this point, Perry saw the white truck pull away and drive west down 378, and here is where his story diverges from Stone’s account. Perry got a weird feeling about the whole situation, so he quickly turned back to his mother’s house and told her to lock her doors. When Perry left the house again, he spotted Sheridan running around the side of the firestation, headed toward the back of the property. 

According to Perry’s statement, he then saw the white truck drive past again, headed east. Perry sat at the end of his mother’s driveway for a few more minutes. To his surprise, the white truck came back around, this time headed west. Perry told SLED agents that the driver was a white male with facial hair, and that he was alone in the truck. The agent’s note in the report confirms that this is Steven Stone.

I find it odd that this is the part of the story that doesn’t match. Steven Stone told investigators that after Sheridan made it across the road, he drove away and didn’t see her again. So why does Walt Perry remember seeing his white truck drive past multiple times? Again, this could be something as simple as one person misremembering. 

Either way, we know that Sheridan was at the fire station shortly after 2pm on September 19th. She was seen running around the back of the building toward the training tower. After that, no one knows what really happened.

Sheridan’s body was taken to the Medical University of South Carolina for autopsy. On Friday, September 24th, Florence County Coroner Keith von Lutcken announced that Sheridan had died from “multiple blunt force injuries due to a fall.” Her manner of death was ruled undetermined. According to the toxicology report, there were no drugs in her system when she died.

The coroner made a statement to local news outlet ABC15 about why he ruled Sheridan’s death undetermined. “We know definitively that she died from multiple blood-force injuries. Most of those injuries were internal, and… confined to the torso area. The reason that I ruled it undetermined is we were able to run down all the witnesses. We ran down everybody. We interviewed them. SLED interview with them. We’ve talked to these people. But, there is an unaccounted for amount of time with Sheridan. The last time she made a phone call or text until the time that she was found at the base of the tower.”

And that’s the true mystery, that blank window of time. What was going through Sheridan’s mind during her last few days? Was she the one who set her car on fire? Was someone else involved? Did she climb to the top of that tower of her own accord?

In the SLED report, it’s mentioned that a cell phone and a pair of car keys were found on the fourth floor of the training tower, indicating that Sheridan had made it to the top. But it’s also mentioned that the tower had partially collapsed; it hadn’t been used for training in a very long time because of how unsafe it was.

As inclined as we are to see nefarious motives in every missing persons case, I think that Sheridan’s death may have been just a horrible accident. Her erratic behavior speaks to some sort of mental health crisis, and combined with the autopsy results, it seems likely that Sheridan, in a state of delusion, may have climbed to the top of the tower and fallen to her death. It is tragic and heartbreaking, and I can’t help but wonder if it could have been different.

In the last few days of her life, Sheridan interacted with multiple people who recognized that her behavior was abnormal, that she was in distress, yet none of them did anything to help her. If just one person had thought to get her help, it’s possible that she could have made it home alive. Of course, they are not at fault for what happened, but it’s a tragedy all the same.

In April of this year, the solicitor of the 12th Judicial Circuit in South Carolina declined to pursue any charges in connection with the death of Sheridan Wahl. In a letter to SLED, Solicitor Ed Clements said that there was no evidence of foul play and “no prosecutorial merit to this case.”

Sheridan Wahl was a bright young woman with her whole future ahead of her. She was loved by her family and friends, and she was known for how much she loved them. Her friend Elizabeth said, “She felt very much that she wanted to be loved, and accepted by people, and so she wanted people to feel that from her when they met her… It’s just heartbreaking to see somebody that was so giving, gone from our lives so soon.”

If you or someone you know is in need of support, please reach out for help. Call or text 988 or visit 988lifeline.org to chat with a trained counselor who can connect you to the support and resources you need.