Toddlers death in dog mauling ruled an accident
After hearing tearful testimony, a jury ruled today that Mount Pleasant toddler Ja’Marr Tiller’s dog-attack death was an accident.
Deandra Tiller, Ja’Marr’s mother, broke down on the witness stand several times. She said her child was sleeping when she left him for about hour in the care of relatives in the early evening on May 27.
When she returned home, she found him dead in the backyard with a dog hovering over him. At first, she thought he was a doll that belonged to her daughter.
The three-man, three-woman jury reached a verdict in the case after about 45 minutes of deliberation. At one point, jurors emerged briefly to ask Charleston County Coroner Rae Wooten for clarification on the meaning of “death by mischance.”
At issue in the coroner’s inquest was whether someone should be charged with neglect because of the death of the child. The jury decided against that and said that what happened at the home was a result of “misfortune and accident.”
Wooten is not bound by the jury’s finding.
“I could overturn it. I don’t feel inclined at this point in time to do so,” she said.
She hoped the inquest will have a positive impact on safety for all children.
Much of the testimony in the afternoon portion of the all-day inquest centered on whether Ja’Marr would have been able to open a door to leave the house on his own.
“I’ve never seen him open the doors and I don’t believe that he could,” Tiller said.
Some witnesses testified that the front door was open at the time of the mauling but an unlatched screen door was closed. Tiller said she was not sure if the front door was open when she left the house. She testified that when she left she told her mother that she would be gone for a while. She had never known Ja’Marr, who was sleeping, to go outside unsupervised.
Read more in tomorrow’s print editions.