The three-week search in South Carolina for the teenage daughter of a Newark anti-violence organizer ended with the discovery of her body in the woods after she was kidnapped and killed, authorities said.

Sanaa Amenhotep, 15, left her home in Columbia, South Carolina, voluntarily with three men on April 5. Her mother reported her missing the next day after she did not hear from her.

On Thursday, Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott said Amenhotep's body was found Wednesday off Interstate 20 in neighboring Lexington County. An autopsy is scheduled for Friday, according to Lexington County coroner Margaret Fisher, who would not disclose Amenhotep's cause of death pending the results.

The sheriff dropped several hints about what led to Amenhotep's suspected murder. Although she left her home willingly with two men who she knew, Lott said investigators believe it quickly turned into a kidnapping and Amenhotep was killed several hours after she left her home.

Lott said her killing was gang-related and that the relationship between Amenhotep and the men was a factor in her kidnapping.

A juvenile named Jalen Wilson was charged with kidnapping in connection with Amenhotep's disappearance. Lott said a kidnapping warrant is out for Treveon Jamar Nelson and he asked the community to put as much effort into finding him as they did in locating Amenhotep. He also urged Nelson to turn himself in.

Lott thanked Amenhotep's family, her church and the community for becoming involved for the search.

"I know deputies, police officers are not supposed to get emotionally involved with cases but there's no way when we work a case like this that our people don't get emotionally attached to the case and when you have an ending like this that it doesn't affect them," Lott said. "She wasn't part of our immediate, personal family she was part of the Richland County family and we've all suffered because she's gone."

Her father is Sharif Malik Amenhotep, a member of Newark’s Brick City Peace Collective. Her parents had offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to her safe return.

Newark Mayor Ras Baraka offered his condolences to the family.

"Mr. Amenhotep works tirelessly to increase justice and reduce violence in our neighborhoods through our Brick City Peace Collective, helping us to re-imagine public safety and prevent tragedies such as this from taking place in our very own community," Baraka said. "No parent should ever have to bury their child. It is an inexplicable loss that defies imagination."

Sharif Amenhotep thanked everyone for their "care, concern and condolences" during the search.

"This is very tragic and devastating for me and family," he wrote on his Facebook page.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ

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