Unsolved murders are often written or talked about on anniversary dates. One year, five years, 10 years ...
But the people left behind grieve every single day.
“I asked the Lord to bless me with one child and he did,” Michelle Spencer-Ransom happily recalled as she spoke about the birth of her son Malik.
She was in labor for ages, some 22 hours, and eventually had a cesarean section.
“He didn’t want to come out,” she joked.
She was 30 at the time, surprisingly calm about his impending arrival, just ready to be his mother.
Eighteen years and four months later, Malik Spencer’s body was found among some brush along Highway 78 in Bamberg County.
“He was a loving and giving person,” she said. “I think too trusting of people. He wanted to see the good in people.”
The last time Spencer-Ransom saw her son was on the morning of Dec. 18, 2018 at their home in Lobeco, Beaufort County. She was leaving for work. Malik was preparing for school. Christmas was just days away.
“It was a Tuesday morning, I think. A typical morning. I remember giving him 10 bucks to get a pizza for dinner. I remember telling him I love him. It was a regular day.”
Malik never made it to school. Later that day, she received a robo call from Whale Branch Early College High School telling her Malik had been absent.
That evening, when he still couldn’t be reached, she thought perhaps he had gone to work, but he did not go to work that day.
Malik was saving money from his part-time job at a local Wendy’s.
Soon, he was deemed a missing person and the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office was asking for help.
“It was just really torture, barely being able to get up. I just felt the life being sucked out of me,” Spencer-Ransom said as she tried to describe what a mother feels when her only child is missing.
Spencer-Ransom often felt heartsick when she watched the news and heard stories of the missing and dead.
“It always bothered me when I heard about unsolved cases,” Spencer-Ransom recalled of life before Malik disappeared.
She always watched the news because she felt it was important to know what was going on in the world.
“These are human beings. These are people. These are families that are suffering,” she said.
The news could sometimes be hard to watch, so much misery, but she never turned away.
Then, misery came knocking on her door.
“They came to the house to let us know they found a body,” she said.
It was Jan. 22, 2019.
A lineman found Malik Spencer in a ditch along Highway 278 in Bamberg County, about an hour away from his home.
He had been shot.
“I think for my family there was some relief, knowing that my son’s body was found. Not closure, but we at least knew something happened. That he was murdered. At least those prayers (to find him) were answered,” Spencer-Ransom said.
She was able to hold a memorial service and put his body to rest, but not knowing how it happened, why it happened remains a source of constant pain.
“Who did this and why? Why did they do it?”
She and her husband Heyward, better known as “Pop” to Malik, no longer live in the same house they shared with him.
“We moved from where we were living. It was too hard for me to stay there,” she said, but she has many of the possessions Malik enjoyed.
His sneakers and jackets, basketball trophies and even his report cards.
“A few things I’ll never get rid of,” she said.
“He just liked to laugh. We had so many good times together.”
Months before he disappeared, they attended family weddings and a reunion. They had celebrated his 18th birthday.
Malik’s godfather is getting married this year. He told Spencer-Ransom, “Malik would have been my best man.”
A true testament to her faith, Spencer-Ransom has forgiven her son’s killer.
She doesn’t know who murdered Malik, but her Christian beliefs guide her to forgive them nonetheless.
“I have forgiven these people, but if they don’t acknowledge what they’ve done then they are doomed,” she said. “If they’re not held accountable and come clean about what they did, they are doomed.”
While she has forgiven them, she would not see what they had done. He had been shot, his body left to the elements for weeks.
The casket was closed at his memorial service.
“We didn’t want to see that because my son was so beautiful. He was so handsome,” she said.
Malik had career plans to learn about HVAC systems or how to be a welder.
“He knew those folks could make a nice living,” she said.
A $5,000 reward is being offered for information about Malik Spencer’s murder.
Major Bob Bromage of the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office said Malik’s murder is considered a cold case, though the investigation is ongoing.
Over the years, some persons of interest were identified, but no arrests have been made.
“It’s a horrible situation. Our desire is to find justice for the family,” Bromage said, adding the cold cases in the department regularly undergo reviews.
There are about 35 unsolved murders in the county dating back to 1972.
“We’ve brought resolution to a few cases that were many, many years old,” he said. “We don’t want families losing hope.”
Spencer-Ransom said she wishes more could be done.
“If it were their family, sometimes I think they would have tried a little harder,” she said.
But she works hard to remain hopeful.
“Some days I’m better than other days,” she said. “I refuse to live this life in pity and misery.”
Her Christian faith remains a source of comfort each day without her son.
“Malik gave his life to the Lord when he was 14. It gives me a sense of peace.”
She is able to think of him now with joy in her heart.
“I’m so happy to say my son, he had a good life, and it warms my heart thinking about him and the people who had pleasant things to say about him,” she said. “It makes me feel really good about the person I raised.”
Anyone with information about Malik Spencer’s murder can contact the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office using their online tip form or by contacting Crime Stoppers of the Lowcountry at 843-554-1111 or using their online tip sheet.