It was Tuesday afternoon and Aiken County Sheriff Michael Hunt bumped into Deputy Kesli Padgett at the department and had a short conversation with the young officer. It was the last one he would have with her.
At 9:20 p.m. Wednesday, the deputy was found near the intersection of Pine Log and Huber Clay roads. According to the sheriff’s office and S.C. Highway Patrol, Padgett was on her way home when she lost control of a 2009 Honda motorcycle and crashed at the side of the road
“I had her in the hallway the day before yesterday talking to her,” Hunt recalled Thursday.
Padgett, 25, was reported missing at 2 p.m. Wednesday. During that time first responders began a search in the Warrenville area.
“I don’t know the exact time but I got a briefing late yesterday afternoon,” Hunt said. “Once I was briefed we did some technology that allowed us to find her not very long after that.”
Hunt said the intersection where the accident occurred is dangerous.
“I’ve been in this county most of my life and Pine Log Road and Huber Clay Road are roads that are dangerous roads,” Hunt said. “As far as the lay of the land it has some short curves, but we don’t know what caused this accident. It just appears that for some reason she left the roadway and had the accident.”
Padgett began her career as a sheriff’s deputy in June 2015. Before becoming an officer, she worked as a dispatcher, Hunt said.
“She worked in our dispatch center for a while until her academy date came, and then she went and did well in the academy and then of course we went to her graduation like we go to all graduations,” he said.
This coming Tuesday would have been Padgett’s second anniversary as a deputy. Hunt described her as hardworking, energetic about her job and from a good family.
“She was well-liked by everyone here and she did a good job,” Hunt said. “We love and value her as we do the rest of our employees.”
For Chief Jarrod Goldman of the Salley Police Department, Padgett was a joy to be around.
“She was always super sweet, had a big smile all the time and was a pleasure to be around,” Goldman said. “Regardless of the situation, you never caught her on a bad day.”
Goldman lived six miles from Fairview in Lexington County, where Padgett grew up.
“I’ve known her father Rhett for all my life,” Goldman said.
“We lived in a small community where everybody knows everybody and her grandmother runs a restaurant, we called it Miss Hazel’s, and that’s where everyone goes.”
After hearing of the incident Goldman said it really took a toll on his heart.
“It’s sad that such a young life was lost,” he said. “She had a lot more years to live.
As news of Padgett’s death spreads around the county, Hunt said the mission now is to allow her family and the sheriff’s office to heal from their loss.
“Unfortunately we had to lead the agency through this before and we’re going to lead them through it this time,” he said. “It never makes it any easier, but we just ask for the thoughts and prayers of the citizens to be with her family and the employees of the sheriff’s office.”
Padgett is the second officer in the Augusta area to die in an off-duty incident in the past week. Richmond County Sheriff’s Deputy Gregory Cooke was killed in a domestic-related incident last week on June 15 .