Inquest Ordered in Dog-Mauling Death
Coroner orders court proceeding to sort out facts in child's death.
Charleston County Coroner Rae H. Wooten has ordered an inquest regarding the death of Ja’Marr Tiller, the 2-year-old boy who died in May after a brutal dog attack in rural Mount Pleasant.
The Aug. 10 inquest will call on witnesses, medical experts and law enforcement to sort out exactly what happened to the toddler. Charleston County Sheriff Al Cannon and Wooten have said criminal charges are possible in the case.
“The reason I have decided to do an inquest into Tiller’s death is because I have not yet ruled on the manner of death,” Wooten said. “An inquest is a powerful tool for me to gather facts, and at the end of the day, the jury is charged with getting back to me a decision on the manner of death.”
Wooten dons a judge's robe and impanels a jury for the inquest. The jury, however, listens to the information, deliberates and delivers a finding on the death.
So far, authorities have said the child died from the dog attack, but the manner of death, which could be ruled accidental, homicide or undetermined, has not been concluded.
“We know the cause of death, but are interested in the jurors' ruling regarding manner of death in this very complicated case,” Wooten said in a county issued statement. “Tiller’s death was not natural or a suicide, but is it appropriate to say it’s an accident or to charge someone with neglect? The jury’s finding won’t bind the solicitor in any way, but it’s very compelling.”
A Dorchester County dog mauling that killed an infant, just weeks before Tiller's death, resulted in the child's father being charged unlawful conduct toward a child. Read more about the Dorchester County incident.
The six-member Charleston County jury can ask questions, Wooten said. A jury has already been summoned, she said, and witnesses will be subpoenaed. Wooten expects that the inquest on Tiller’s case will last all day.
The last inquest performed by Wooten’s office was held December 2008 and lasted until 10 p.m. It was for a case regarding a 2007 plane crash that was initially thought to be an accident but was ultimately ruled undetermined.