Dog Attack Kills Mt. Pleasant Toddler
Update: Officials offer new details on fatal dog mauling.
A second dog attack in a little more than a month has claimed the life of a Charleston County toddler, officials say.
The mother of 2-year-old Ja'Marr Tiller thought the boy was sleeping Sunday in an upstairs bedroom at a family home in unincorporated Mount Pleasant. But somehow around 8 p.m., the child ventured into the yard and was the victim of a fatal attack, according to law enforcement.
"This is an extremely tragic situation, and really ironic that we've had two similar incidents in the greater (Charleston) community in the last month or two," said Charleston County Sheriff Al Cannon.
The Sunday death follows an April 20 incident in which a newborn in Dorchester County was dismembered by a family dog as his father napped.
That case, in another police jurisdiction, was ruled a homicide and the father was charged with neglect.
There has been no official manner of death released in regard to Ja'Marr Tiller, but police are working under the assumption that the child was killed by an animal.
"We are seeking outside expertise to help us identify exactly where the wounds came from, to the extent that we can," Sheriff Cannon said at a Monday press conference. "There are a number of aspects that the coroner's office and the sheriff's office are working on."
Deputies responded at 8:30 p.m. Sunday to initial reports of a life-threatening dog attack, according to sheriff's spokesman Major Jim Brady. The child, critically injured, was transported to the Medical University of South Carolina where he was pronounced dead from the injuries, according to Coroner Rae Wooten.
Two dogs cared for by a relative — female and male lab-shepherd mixed breeds — were taken into custody by Animal Control.
"We do know the child died of injuries sustained, but there remains many unanswered questions about how this came to occur," Wooten said.
Experts will help determine if the dogs currently being held by animal control are indeed responsible, the sheriff said. Until then, nothing will happen to the animals.
"In any case you want to find the animal or the person that's responsible," Cannon said. "You've got to pursue that the same way you would a homicide. … We want to be certain that we've identified the dog, or dogs or animal or animals involved."
Coroner Wooten said the dogs currently in custody were not exactly family pets, but they were fed by Tiller's relatives. Cannon described them as "yard dogs." But the family's rural property was not fenced and any animal could have attacked the child.
The boy's mother, who left the child in a home with his aunt, uncle, grandmother and two cousins, returned after an hour or so to find the child stripped of his clothes and lying in the driveway with the two dogs over him, the relative said.
"At that point, we all went running out of the house and we saw his lifeless body laying on the ground," said Octavia Johnson, the boy's aunt. "The dog was still … over him at that time."
The child had multiple injuries all over his body, though Wooten wouldn't say exactly how many. Deputies are just at the start of their investigation, Cannon said. He wouldn't elaborate on the potential for criminal charges.
"It's too soon to say," Cannon said. "Obviously there is a lot of grief here, and this investigation is far from complete. It's too early to make any statements in that regard. We're looking at this and awaiting a lot of investigatory steps that need to be complete."