Annette Sagers had her dog with her as she waited for her school bus on the morning of October 4, 1988. Annette lived in a cabin on the Mount Holly Plantation in Mount Holly, South Carolina, where her stepfather worked as a caretaker. The property was located on Highway 52; the school bus would pick Annette up on Highway 52, right at the end of the plantation’s long driveway. She was the only student who used that bus stop, but her dog would usually accompany her on the half-mile walk to the highway and would remain with her until the bus arrived.
Several passing motorists saw Annette at the bus stop that morning, sitting inside the little wooden hut that had been built to shelter her from inclement weather; she was perched on top of her school books with her dog at her side. She was seen by several witnesses around 7:00 am, but when her bus arrived at 7:20 am, Annette was nowhere to be found. The bus driver didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary at the bus stop and assumed that the 12-year-old was simply staying home from school that day.
Her stepfather, Thomas “Steve” Malinoski, didn’t notice anything was wrong until later that afternoon when Annette failed to return home from school. He called Westview Middle School and was startled to find out that the sixth-grader had been marked absent that day; he had last seen her walking to her bus stop that morning and assumed that she had gotten on the bus. He knew that she had taken her dog with her, but the dog had returned to the cabin as usual. Steve decided to walk down to the bus stop to see if he could find any clues to her whereabouts.
Inside the wooden bus shelter, Steve found a single sheet of loose-leaf paper; there was a note written on it that appeared to be addressed to him. “Dad, Mom came back. I have to go with her. Give the boys lots of kisses and hugs and also you too. Love, Annette.”
Annette’s mother, Korrina Malinoski, had gone missing from the Mount Holly Plantation nearly a year earlier, on November 20, 1987. Her disappearance had been discovered after she failed to show up for her scheduled shift at the local convenience store where she worked. When her concerned manager drove to the plantation to see if she was there, he found her car parked and locked by the gated entrance to the plantation. Steve claimed that Korrina had left their cabin around 11:30 pm to go for a drive and never returned. Now, it appeared she may have come back for her daughter.
Steve called police to report his stepdaughter missing late that afternoon. The case was assigned to the Berkeley County Sheriff’s Office, and they immediately turned the note Steve found over to the State Law Enforcement Division for analysis. It was determined that the note had been written by Annette; whether it had been written voluntarily or under duress was unknown.
Police made several public appeals for information about Annette and Korrina. They noted that if Korrina had indeed returned and taken her daughter, no crime had been committed; they simply wanted to know that the mother and daughter were safe. Many questioned Steve’s story, however, including Korrina’s family. They didn’t believe Korrina had left the plantation voluntarily, and they didn’t believe that she would have returned for Annette and left her two young sons behind.
The plantation had been searched several times in the initial weeks following Korrina’s disappearance. Nothing was found to indicate any kind of foul play had taken place, but it was clear that police questioned Steve’s story. He and Korrina had a volatile relationship marred by domestic violence. Shortly before she went missing, Korrina had made it clear that she was considering leaving her husband.
Although police refrained from naming Steve a suspect in his wife’s disappearance, they did ask him to take a polygraph examination. Steve agreed, but the results of the test were inconclusive. Detectives noted that they considered Steve to be a person of interest in Korrina’s case, but that they had no evidence of foul play and weren’t sure if she left voluntarily or not. The investigation into her disappearance had quickly gone cold, but it was thrust back into the headlines when Annette went missing.
Steve admitted that he and Korrina had argued on the night she disappeared, but continued to maintain that she left on her own. He was adamant that he had nothing to do with Annette’s disappearance; he believed that Korrina had returned for her daughter as Annette’s note indicated.
Annette’s friends and classmates were devastated by her sudden disappearance. They feared she had been abducted and spent hours hanging up missing posters throughout the area. They hoped that Annette might see the posters and realize how much she was loved; like police, they just wanted to know if she was okay.
By the time Annette went missing, Korrina’s family had already resolved themselves to the fact that they were never going to see Korrina again. They were convinced that she had been the victim of foul play, and they now feared for Annette’s safety.
Korrina’s brother, Lee Sagers, didn’t believe that his sister ever left the plantation. The siblings had been close, and Korrina would often call Lee just to chat. He knew that Korrina never would have left without taking her children; she was a devoted mother to all three of her children and was especially close with Annette.
Korrina’s family was aware that she and Steve would fight frequently. In the days leading up to her disappearance, Korrina had mentioned that she was homesick and wanted to visit her family, which was spread out across Iowa and Illinois. When she suddenly vanished, police believed that she might have simply decided to leave Steve and return home to her parents. The fact that her car was found abandoned at the end of the plantation’s driveway seemed to rule out this possibility, however, and she never contacted any members of her family.
Lee knew that his sister would never have left Steve without letting her family and friends know about it first. She wasn’t the type of person who would simply abandon her family and job; if she were still alive, she would have called someone to let them know she was safe.
In the weeks following Annette’s disappearance, it was clear that police were worried that she and her mother had both become victims of foul play. They distributed missing posters to law enforcement agencies across seven different states and pleaded for anyone with any information about the mother and daughter to come forward.
Steve seemed to sense that police were looking at him with suspicion. He resigned from his job at Mount Holly Plantation and moved to Florida the following month. Even more surprising, he decided to relinquish custody of his two young sons; they were placed in foster care and eventually adopted.
Detectives may have suspected Steve, but they had no evidence to suggest that he was involved. One of the detectives recalled looking at Annette’s dog and wishing it could speak; he even checked the dog to make sure it hadn’t been wounded. He was a large dog and likely would have tried to defend Annette if she had been approached by a stranger.
Police continued to investigate the double disappearance, but made little progress. They received sporadic reports of potential sightings of the mother and daughter, but were never able to verify if it was actually them. They continued to make public appeals for information, but soon exhausted all leads and the case slowly went cold.
There was a lot of public speculation about what might have happened to Korrina and Annette. Many people believed that Steve had k*illed his wife in a fit of rage, likely because he knew she wanted to leave him. It was possible that Annette had witnessed something that made Steve realize he needed to get rid of her as well. Annette’s two half-brothers were just toddlers at the time their mother went missing, too young to recall what had happened that night. The fact that they were too young to know anything might have saved their lives.
Other people believed that Korrina had simply gotten tired of dealing with Steve and his violent temper. They suggested that she left voluntarily in search of a better life, then returned for her daughter after she had settled down somewhere. She might have thought that leaving the two boys with Steve would pacify him enough that he wouldn’t come looking for her and Annette.
The fact that Korrina never reached out to any of her family members seemed to suggest that she was no longer alive. There were no reported sightings of her in the area around the time that Annette went missing, and if she had picked Annette up from the bus stop in a vehicle, she likely would have allowed Annette to bring her dog.
There was also a lot of speculation about the note that Steve claimed to find at the bus stop. Some refused to believe that Annette herself had written the note, but police were convinced that it was in her handwriting. Many thought that Annette had been forced to write the note by Steve; it seemed to be a transparent attempt to direct suspicion away from himself. If Korrina really had returned, she likely would have been in a hurry to grab Annette and go; remaining in front of the plantation for any amount of time would increase the risk that Steve would see her.
The case was complicated by the fact that there were no witnesses to either disappearance. No one reported seeing Korrina on the night she supposedly left the plantation; no witnesses saw her walking along the highway and no one saw any cars stopped near the gates of the plantation. Several people saw Annette as she waited for her bus, but no one saw her get into a car or leave the bus stop.
Detectives took several looks at the case over the years, but were never able to learn what had happened to the missing mother and daughter. In 2019, the Berkeley County Sheriff’s Office cold case unit decided to take a fresh look at the case, and they quickly determined that Korrina and Annette had almost certainly been the victims of foul play. Detectives do not believe that either one of them ever left the plantation, and they have conducted several recent searches for their bodies.
The Mount Holly Plantation sprawled out over 6,000 acres of land; in an effort to narrow down a search area, investigators consulted with soil and typography experts at the College of Charleston. Using drones and ground-penetrating radar, they hope to determine which areas of the plantation might contain buried bodies.
As part of their revived investigation, detectives have also resubmitted several items taken from the home for advanced DNA analysis and have conducted interviews with several potential witnesses. Although they interviewed both of Annette’s half-brothers, they confirmed that they were so young at the time of the disappearances that they couldn’t recall any information about the actual events. Detectives have not yet reinterviewed Steve, who now lives somewhere in Florida, but plan to speak with him once they have gathered more information. He has continued to maintain his innocence.
Korrina Malinoski was 26 years old when she went missing in 1987. She has brown hair and brown eyes; her height and weight at the time of her disappearance are unknown. Annette Sagers was 12 years old when she went missing in 1988. She has brown eyes and brown hair, and at the time of her disappearance she was 4 feet 8 inches tall and weighed 95 pounds. She was last seen wearing a red shirt, red pants, and white shoes. She had a slight speech impediment when she went missing. If you have any information about Korrina or Annette, please contact the Berkeley County Sheriff’s Office at 803–761–7190.