FBI and other agencies searching for missing mom and son focuses on Burton property Friday

Representatives of the FBI and other law enforcement agencies were at a residence on Rerock Road in Burton on Friday afternoon possibly looking for connections to the mysterious June disappearance of Sophia Van Dam and her 2 -year-old son Matteo. The property is the residence of Jonas Jerry Washington Sr.

James Moss, an attorney for Washington Sr., said authorities also searched the property a few weeks ago and he (Washington Sr.) doesn’t know why. Authorities, Moss said, haven’t been forthcoming with information. “He (Washington Sr.) has been very open about it,” Moss said. “He doesn’t know anything.”

The property’s connection to the Van Dam case may have some association to Washington Sr.’s son, Jonas Jerry Washington Jr., 24. Her family has said repeatedly Sophia Van Dam and Washington Jr. were in a relationship and they shared a rental residence in Sumter.

Several people with FBI markings on their shirts were seen leaving the property in a large four-door Ford truck midday Friday. It is unknown what time they arrived. Authorities also would not comment on what they were looking for or what brought them to that location. Rerock is a narrow gravel Road off Shanklin Road about 8 miles north of Beaufort. The area is heavily wooded.

Jail records indicate that Washington Jr. also listed the Rerock Road property as his address.

Van Dam, 20, and Matteo, 2, disappeared in June. A June 24, 2023 text was the last time family members heard from her and days later they reported her missing to Sumter police. Van Dam, a Beaufort native, told her family she was returning to a house she rented in Sumter after spending time at the home of her parents in Beaufort. Her vehicle was located at the Sumter residence but, when police were dispatched, there was no sign of Van Dam or her son.

According to the incident report from the Sumpter Police Deparment, “On 6/28/2023 law enforcement responded to 47 Wilson St. in the city of Sumter in reference to a welfare check on Sophia and Matteo Van Dam. Upon arrival, officers attempted to make contact at the residence with negative results. Officers then made contact with Sophia’s mother who advised she had not seen or heard from her daughter Sophia in several days. Sophia’s mother advised that she was concerned for Sophia and Matteo’s well being and wanted to report them as missing. Sophia and Matteo were entered into NCIC as missing.”

The FBI, State Law Enforcement Division (SLED), Sumter Police and the Sheriff’s Office announced earlier Friday that they would be conducting “various law enforcement activities” at different locations in Beaufort County Friday in search of the Beaufort woman and her young son.

Angela Viens, a spokesperson with the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office, said later that the law enforcement presence at the Rerock property was “just one of the things we’re doing as part of our activities today.”

Washington Jr. is currently in jail in Effingham County in Georgia, where he is awaiting trial related to June 2020 charges of possession of a firearm or knife during the commission of or attempt of burglary; attempting to elude a police officer and drug-related offenses, according to court records.

Washington Jr. was initially jailed on June 30 in Beaufort County for fleeing to evade arrest, trespassing and being a fugitive from justice related to the Georgia charges. Beaufort County Sheriffs’ deputies had gone to the residence on Rerock Road to assist Animal Control agents who were responding to a complaint. When they arrived, Washington Jr. allegedly fled with his sister in a vehicle. A police chase ensued, Viens said, and he was arrested after he jumped out of the car and ran to a house, authorities said.

At the time of his June 30 arrest, Washington Jr. was out on bond for 2021 charges in Beaufort County for possession of a weapon in the commission of a violent crime, kidnapping, larceny and burglary related to an alleged carjacking on Shanklin Road, court records show. He was released on June 24, 2021 on house arrest. The conditions of his release included that he attend work with his father and have no contact with the carjacking victims, according to Beaufort County court records.