Vital Statistics at Time of Disappearance
Details of Disappearance
Paula was last seen by her parents at 6:30 p.m. on January 3, 1999 when she left her home at 4524 Sandy Ridge Road to go to the Christ Unity Church near the Columbia-Owens Downtown Airport. But she never made it to the Narcotics Anonymous meeting held at the church on 1801 LeGrand Road. Merchant was getting help for her heroin addiction and had been going to the meetings since she first returned to her parents home.
Her vehicle was located on January 4, 1999 at 2230 Commerce Drive in Columbia, SC at approximately 12:00 a.m., behind an abandoned building in the Rosewood neighborhood. The car had been burned, and there was no sign of Paula. Merchant's keys and purse were found inside the car. The fire was intentionally set. Some type of fuel was found all over the car and inside.
Merchant, a recent graduate of Georgia State University, moved to Forest Acres from Atlanta about two weeks before to be with her parents. She was looking for work at the time. She had been traveling from Columbia to Georgia until she moved in with her parents. Merchant attended Georgia Perimeter College, formerly DeKalb College, from March 1995 to June 1996. She enrolled at Georgia State University in September 1996 and graduated in August with A and B averages in anthropology.
Merchant's parents have lived in Forest Acres since 1997. Merchant has no known friends in the city. Police are treating Merchant's disappearance as a possible kidnapping.
If you have any information concerning this case, please contact:
Forest Acres Police Department
State, The (Columbia, SC) - Thursday, August 26, 1999