A pink scooter with purple streamers, a pair of plastic pails and turquoise galoshes the size of a child's foot made it clear that a little girl lived at 302 Kershaw Road.
Remnants of the child's playful times outside the Sangaree home were a stark contrast Wednesday morning to the horrors that recently took place there.
Riley Burdick, 8, was found strangled to death in her bed on Tuesday. The girl was a student at Sangaree Intermediate School. Her mother, 26-year-old Ashley Kaney, also had been killed, authorities said.
Berkeley County sheriff's deputies said their deaths were a case of domestic violence at the hands of Kaney's boyfriend, a 22-year-old sailor from Virginia Beach.
The incident came a little more than a week after Gov. Nikki Haley signed a proclamation naming October Domestic Violence Awareness Month in South Carolina. The move prompted discussion about a recent report from the Washington, D.C.-based Violence Policy Center that ranked South Carolina first in the nation in the rate of women murdered by men, with its rate more than double the national average.
The suspect in the Sangaree mother and daughter's deaths, Jacob Theopholis Philip, a student at the Nuclear Power Training School in Goose Creek, was arrested by police in Virginia Beach, according to a news release from the Berkeley County Sheriff's Office. He is charged with two counts of murder and was being held in Virginia Beach pending extradition.
“Senseless acts such as this have far-reaching effects on not only the families involved but our entire community,” Sheriff Wayne DeWitt said in a statement. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to Ms. Kaney's family during this difficult time.”
Philip confessed to the Sangaree killings after Virginia Beach police picked him up on an unrelated charge of grand larceny auto, sheriff's deputies said.
Prior to Philip having been publicly identified as a suspect, an official with Joint Base Charleston confirmed that a student with the Nuclear Power Training Unit was a person of interest in the case. The command was fully cooperating with the Berkeley County Sheriff's Office in the investigation, the official said.
How Kaney died was not immediately clear on Wednesday. The woman's cause of death would be released pending a toxicology and microscopic test, Berkeley County Coroner Bill Salisbury said.
Sheriff's Capt. Rick Ollic would not say whether authorities believed Philip used a weapon to kill the woman.
Deputies discovered the bodies around noon Tuesday after a social worker from Sangaree Intermediate School went to the house to check on why the girl had not been to school this week, Salisbury said. The social worker called the Berkeley County Sheriff's Office when nobody answered the door.
Kaney originally was from Aiken and moved near Summerville about a year or so ago to go to the Medical University to become a dentist, according to her mother, Katherine Kaney of Aiken. She took classes at MUSC when she could while working and caring for her daughter.
“She was a beautiful Irish girl with the greenest eyes you've ever seen, the prettiest smile you'd ever want to look at and glowed with love from inside,” her mother said. “She was a wonderful mother. I haven't met anybody who didn't like her. She's been that way all her life.”
Riley's father, Paul Burdick, lives in Aiken and is a close friend of the family and had taken Riley to Aiken the previous weekend, she said.
“He's devastated,” she said. “He wishes he had brought Riley back to Aiken.”
Hilda Herring of Aiken is a friend of the family. Her son dated Ashley about two years ago and remained friends with her.
“He's thinking, 'Mom, if I had only been there that day.'”
Herring called her own granddaughter after hearing the news.
“I had to call her up yesterday,” she said. “I said, 'I just want to say I love you. Meemaw loves you. Please take care of yourself and don't let anything happen to you.'”
One of Ashley's friends, Amy Holmes, 30, of Aiken said she was devastated to hear what happened to her.
“She had these cheeks that looked like little cherries,” Holmes said. “Her smile and laughter were infectious. She was always so happy. We all loved her very much. You don't ever realize the impact people have on your life until they're gone, or tragically ripped away from you like that.”
Kaney's daughter, Riley, often played with other little girls who lived nearby. Neighbors said they struggled to tell their own children that their friend was gone.
“It was the hardest thing I've ever had to do,” one neighbor said of the conversation he had with his 10-year-old daughter. “I told her Jesus had a plan for Riley. Riley's jumping on a trampoline in heaven, looking down on her.”
Berkeley County School District officials said grief counseling is available to students in need.
“This is an unspeakable tragedy. On behalf of the district, I offer my condolences, and our hearts and prayers are with Riley's and Ms. Kaney's loved ones and the entire Sangaree community,” Superintendent Rodney Thompson said in an email Wednesday morning.
District officials said that the school has implemented a crisis-response plan for students and staff. Additional school counselors and support staff were at the school Wednesday, officials said. Counseling and grief support will continue to be available throughout the week, according to school officials.
Dave Munday of The Post and Courier and Teddy Kulmala of the Aiken Standard contributed to this story. Reach Christina Elmore at 937-5908 or at Twitter.com/celmorePC.
Ashley Kaney and daughter Riley Burdick.×
Investigators form a line across the front yard of 302 Kershaw Road in the Sangaree neighborhood near Summerville, late Tuesday afternoon, to search every square foot for possible clues after a woman and child were found dead in their beds.×
Investigators form a line across the front yard of 302 Kershaw Road in the Sangaree neighborhood near Summerville late Tuesday afternoon, to search every square foot for possible clues after a woman and child were found dead in their beds.×