Episode 91-Jeremy Grice Missing and the Murders of Crystal Faye Todd and Ann Fox Smith

On November 22, 1984, a four-year-old little boy vanished in the rain from his parents’ home. Jeremy Grice lived with his mother and step-father, Donna and Nick Arrington, and his 10-month-old sister Christy. His step-father put Jeremy to bed the night before while his mom worked second shift at a local manufacturing plant that made thermostats. She arrived home from her shift around 1 a.m. and went to sleep. Her husband Nick got up around 7 a.m. to go to work. Around 10 a.m., Jeremy’s infant sister woke her mother up. Donna was surprised her son hadn’t woken her up already by that time. She searched their mobile home and the bedroom Jeremy normally slept in. His covers were pulled back and his pillow was in the middle of the bed, and she noticed the front door was cracked open. Fearing the worst, she searched their front yard before heading over to her father-in-law’s home. He lived about 500 yards away. But no one was home there, and none of the neighbors had seen him.

Where is Jeremy?

She put in a call to Jeremy’s biological father, Ray Grice, who was working nearby. He immediately drove over to help with the search. She also called her husband Nick to help search. Then they called the Aiken County Sheriff’s Department at around 1:30 p.m. when they could find no sign of Jeremy in the neighborhood. Later that evening, when a local resident and hairstylist named Geneva Van Buren was returning home from work, she noticed a heavy police presence near the Arrington property. Later that night, while she was watching the evening news, she learned little Jeremy Grice was missing. She had seen the boy standing out in the rain with no jacket or shoes that morning in his driveway when she was driving to work. He had his dog standing beside him. She slowed her car down, worried he or the dog would run out in the road. She thought it was unusual that he was out in the rain at 8:45 in the morning. Van Buren’s daughter encouraged her to call the Sheriff’s Department the next day to report what she’d seen.

Over the following days, law enforcement and neighbors combed the woods surrounding the Arrington home and even dragged two ponds to make sure the boy hadn’t accidentally fallen in or drowned. The Sheriff’s Department announced they felt certain the boy had been kidnapped. A listener actually sent me a message some time ago mentioning this case because she lived about a mile from where Jeremy went missing. Her family was part of the search party. And her family always reminded her to be safe while playing outside because of what had happened.

His mother said the boy wouldn’t have gone outside without his jacket on, and that he was scared of the rain, so the sighting of him by Geneva Van Buren was confusing. She believed someone must have come into the trailer and gotten him while she was asleep. Jeremy’s dad Ray Grice pointed out that there was only one road in and out of the neighborhood—it wasn’t the type of area where random drivers came through early in the morning. He believed someone Jeremy knew had taken him, otherwise the dog would have defended the boy. The dog was still at the home after Jeremy went missing.

A few years after Jeremy’s disappearance, in February 1987, investigators thought they might have a break in the case. Six children ranges ages 2 to 7 were found at a park in Tallahassee, Florida. They were cold, hungry, and covered with insect bites. They were with two men who were known to be a part of the group, “The Finders,” a secretive commune based in Washington, D.C. Police had no idea who the children, four boys, and two girls, were and the men weren’t talking. Law enforcement in South Carolina looked at pictures of the children but didn’t determine any of them to be missing from South Carolina. The mothers of the children found in Florida eventually came forward to claim them, and the story of The Finders is an intriguing rabbit hole to head down if you’re interested.

Jeremy’s entry on The Charley Project website noted that a child serial killer named William Ernest Downs had been questioned in Jeremy’s disappearance. He murdered a six-year But he would have only been a teenager at the time Jeremy went missing, and he was never charged in the case. He was from Aiken. He murdered a six-year-old boy and a ten-year-old boy in Augusta, Georgia in 1991 and 1999. Downs was executed by lethal injection in South Carolina on July 14, 2006.

Over the years, the Aiken County Sheriff’s Office produced age-progression photographs of what Jeremy might look like as he aged. When he went missing, Jeremy Grice was four years old, with blonde hair and hazel eyes. He stood three feet eight inches tall or four feet tall and weighed around 40 pounds. He has moles on his scalp and behind his left earlobe. He would be 42 years old today. Anyone with information about the whereabouts of Jeremy Grice is asked to contact the Aiken County Sheriff’s Department 803-642-1761.

Crystal Faye Todd

On November 16, 1991, 17-year-old Crystal Faye Todd from Conway, South Carolina failed to return home after a night out with friends. The last time anyone remembered seeing her was around 11 p.m., in the parking lot of the nearby Coastal Mall. The next morning, her car, a metallic blue 1991 Toyota Celica with the personalized license tag “C TODD” was found in the parking lot at the Conway Middle School. Her purse was still inside.

The next morning, two deer hunters came across a mutilated body in a ditch off a dirt road in Horry County. It was Crystal Todd. An autopsy revealed a shocking crime. The vivacious and petite Crystal had been stabbed more than 30 times, and there were signs of a brutal sexual assault. One of the stab wounds had crushed her skull and another entered her brain. Out of respect for the victim and her family, I won’t get into the exact details of the rape and murder; you can read all those details in the newspaper articles published at the time. But I will say that it was evidence this crime was violent, with signs of overkill, and the perpetrator degraded the young woman’s body in every way he could think possible before leaving her on the side of the road. Crystal’s mother Bonnie told police right away that the killer had to be someone her daughter knew, because Crystal wouldn’t have gotten into a car with a stranger and left her own vehicle behind.

Police worked to retrace Crystal’s steps on the night she disappeared. They knew at 7 p.m. she had left a birthday dinner for her grandmother in the Toddville community. At 8 p.m. she stopped by the Coastal Mall parking lot to speak with a friend. Around 9 p.m., she and a friend left the mall. They went to a party in the Punchbowl community, which they left around 11 p.m. By 11:20 the two were back in the mall parking lot, which Crystal left alone. An eyewitness saw her car parked at the Conway Middle School around 10 minutes later. Within the first few days of the murder, police had interviewed more than 100 of Crystal’s friends and family members.

The Satan Connection Debunked

Immediately, rumors began spreading around town that Crystal’s murder was related to satanic rituals, most likely due to the severity and number of her stab wounds. Police worked quickly to tell the public they had no evidence that Crystal’s murder was ritualistic. Within a week, though, they did release a statement that they believed there was more than one killer involved. Her mother told the Sun-News in Myrtle Beach the following: “I tell everyone to be careful because there’s a maniac still out there. We don’t know who that devil is. If they don’t catch him, he’s liable to get somebody else. A $10,000 reward gathered by Horry County and Crime Stoppers was offered to anyone with information leading to an arrest.

After the first few months, investigators decided to try something different. They took blood and saliva samples from about 50 males that were acquainted with Crystal in order to test them against blood and semen found on Crystal’s body. They also collected head and pubic hair samples, fingerprints, and palm prints. One of the men they took samples from, 18-year old Johnnie Kenneth “Ken” Register, had dated Crystal in the past and remained close friends with her. He had even served as a pallbearer at her heavily-attended funeral. Register expressed to Bonnie Todd that he was afraid he would be framed for murder. She told him he was innocent, so he had nothing to worry about. In fact, he had often stopped by her home and asked her about the investigation into Crystal’s murder, always offering her a hug before he left.

A Killer in Plain Sight

It turns out, Crystal’s mother was wrong and had been fooled by a killer. DNA testing had matched Register’s DNA with the DNA in semen found in Crystal’s body. He also had the same blood type as the killer’s. The Medical Examiner had determined that Crystal had been raped in the same time period she had been killed. When police had questioned Register after the murder, he had told them he hadn’t seen Crystal in three or four days, and that he’d never had sex with her, even though they dated for a brief time.

On February 18, 1992, police in Horry County arrested Register and charged him with murder and first-degree criminal sexual conduct. He was on a job site as a construction worker at Garden City Beach when he was arrested. During a discussion with police, in which they read him his Miranda rights, he confessed to the murder once they told him what evidence they had collected implicating him.

Register’s arrest confirmed the theory that Crystal had known her killer, and they told the public they had no plans to arrest in anyone else in the rape and murder.

Register was remembered as a good student and football player at Conway High School. He was also a member of the Future Farmers of America club during his freshman year. He was described by classmates as quiet and laid back, and many people believed police had arrested the wrong man. At the time of his arrest, he was dating a young woman at a nearby high school and was often seen accompanying her at events there.

Ken Register’s trial began in Conway in January of 1993. The media pointed out that it was an unusual trial because of the amount of young adults scheduled to testify. Out of the more than 100 witnesses, 50 or 60 of those were teenagers who had known both Crystal and Register because they had the same circle of friends. Many students openly voiced their opinions that Register was innocent and attended the trial in support of him.

Escalating Behavior of a Murderer

What they didn’t know prior was that Register’s inappropriate and sexually-driven behavior had been escalating for years. When he was a juvenile in 1988, he had made hundreds of obscene phone calls to a local female teacher. And the year Crystal was murdered, he was arrested for masturbating in front of two female students at Coastal Carolina University.

Sheriff John “Teddy” Hendry arranged for walk-through metal detectors to be placed a the courtroom’s doors for extra security. The prosecutor for the case, Solicitor Ralph Wilson, had been getting threatening phone calls at his residence, some of which his children answered.

The trial was the first legal test of the State Law Enforcement Division Laboratory that examined the DNA for Horry County police.

Register took the stand in his own defense, and by all accounts, showed no emotion as he looked at Crystal’s blood-stained clothing and photographs of the crime scene.

These threats to the prosecutor for the case had continued all throughout the trial, including during the time the jury was out for deliberation. A witness standing outside overheard someone use a racial slur, as Solicitor Ralph Wilson was Black, and said he was going to kill him before the end of the night.” That witness alerted the Conway police. Wilson said in all his years as a prosecutor, he had never received any threats. One call that came in said Wilson would be harmed as he walked across the street from his office to the courthouse. He had to be escorted during that trip by armed guards. The crime of threatening a court official is a felony and can carry a maximum of five years in prison.

In fact, dozens of law enforcement were on guard at the courthouse during that time, as the Crystal Todd murder trial had drawn one of the biggest crowds the courthouse had seen in years.

I read in a later article that police had been able to pinpoint a particular home the calls were coming from, but it belonged to a family, and they couldn’t determine which family member was making the calls. I’m not sure if they ever arrested anyone for the threats, but if I had to guess, I’d say it was a close friend or family member of Ken Register that was making the threats.

The jury found Ken Register guilty of the rape and murder of Crystal Faye Todd on January 22, 1993 after deliberating for almost five hours. Crystal’s mother Bonnie later told the media that she was surprised at the way Register stared at the jury after the verdict was read. “You could see the devil coming out of his eyes,” she said. “I’ve always wondered what was in his eyes, now I know it was the devil.”

 After the guilty verdict, Bonnie Todd visited her daughter’s grave and told her about Ken Register getting convicted. “I wanted to tell her they found him guilty,” she told the press. “I stayed about a minute. I just felt glad.”

Register was given several life sentences for his crimes, but he has still been eligible for parole. He is serving his sentence out in the Broad River Correctional Institution in Columbia. In February 2022, he waived his right to a parole hearing. His next hearing will be February 2026.

Ann Fox Smith

On April 25, 2008, Aiken County middle school teacher Ann Fox Smith, who was 47 years old at the time, failed to show up for work. Ann was a native of Atlanta, Georgia who had been a member of the Aiken community for 20 years. She was the mother of two sons and a daughter. As a dependable and devoted special needs teacher, this was unlike her. When her co-worker Sally Ferriter went to check on her around lunchtime. She went to the backdoor and expected to find it locked, but when she turned the handle, it opened. She found her friend lying facedown on her bedroom floor with no pulse.

It appeared she had died earlier that day of multiple stab wounds, but there was no murder weapon left behind at the scene. There were no signs of forced entry in the home, but at the time, police reported the murderer had left DNA behind at the scene of the crime.

A Suspect Close to Home

At the time of the murder, Ann, who was the mother of three, had been recently separated from her husband. While the police interviewed a few different suspects, no one was ever charged. An officer with the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, Lt. Michael Prodan created a profile of the killer, and he said this crime was likely committed by a man who was very familiar with the teacher, her home, and her daily habits. This was a person who knew she would be alone at the house. He also added that this person saw Ann as a threat who needed to be eliminated. Prodan does not believe this was a botched sexual assault or burglary. He also noted the perpetrator should still be considered a danger to others and could lash out at anyone around him perceived as a threat. Prodan pointed out that offenders will often follow an investigation closely and make comments about the crime and ask others what they think happened or possible suspects.

There were several persons of interests in the crime who were not cooperating with the investigation, including Smith’s estranged husband, William Smith Jr.

Anyone with information on the murder of Ann Fox Smith is asked to contact Crime Stoppers of the Midlands at 1-888-CRIME-SC.

Show Resources:

Jeremy Grice



Florence Morning News

November 26, 1985

Officials Believe boy Victim of Kidnapping


The State

October 5, 1986

Child’s disappearance still a puzzle


Page 2


The State

February 20, 1987

S.C. children still missing


The Item (Sumter, S.C.)

The mystery of Jeremy Grice

November 27, 1987


The Greenville News

Aiken lawmen are still hunting for missing boy

May 14, 1992


The Greenville News

December 1, 2020

35 years on: Jeremy Grice case still unsolved


Crystal Faye Todd


November 18, 1991

Conway teenager stabbed



November 20, 1991


Police seek information about murder of Conway teenager



November 25, 1991

Police suspect more than 1 involved in stabbing


Page 2



February 19, 1992

Friends shocked by suspect’s arrest

Page 2



February 21, 1992

Murder suspect’s bond hearing is today


Page 2



May 19, 1992

Victim has place in hearts, graduation



November 17, 1992

A year later, mother still dealing with loss


Page 2



January 10, 1993

‘A lot the public doesn’t know’


Trial, Second page

Mother of victim told Register not to worry about tests



January 19, 1993

Jury hears new testimony about Register’s behavior


Page 2



January 24, 1993

Solicitor: Register was his own enemy


Page 2

January 24, 1993

Prosecutor of Register threatened several times



February 6, 1993

Lost DYS file investigated



Ann Fox Smith




April 28, 2008

Aiken teacher stabbed to death in her home