Child dies after reported dog attack near Mount Pleasant

Ja'Marr Tiller

Authorities on Monday were investigating the death of a 2-year-old boy after a dog attack Sunday night in an unincorporated area near Mount Pleasant.

Family members had put Ja’Marr Tiller to bed when he apparently climbed down a flight of stairs and slipped out the back door, said Octavia Johnson, the toddler’s aunt.

The boy’s mother had just left to get some gas and run an errand. When she returned, she found her son lying on the ground with his clothes torn off, Johnson said.

“She came in the house screaming, ‘A dog has killed my son!’”

Johnson, who was in the house at the time with her mother and three other family members, rushed out to the boy, and with the help of a neighbor, performed CPR until paramedics arrived.

“His eyes flickered to life and there was some movement for a second,” she said. “It’s so tragic. He was so loved by everyone who came into contact with him.”

Paramedics transported the injured child to Medical University Hospital, where he died, Charleston County Coroner Rae Wooten said. The child had bites that “were widely distributed” over his body.

Two family dogs, a female black lab shepherd mix and a female lab and shepherd mix, were taken into custody by Animal Control, officials said.

Charleston County Sheriff Al Cannon said investigators weren’t sure whether both dogs participated in the attack, or whether another animal also might be involved. He described them as “yard dogs” that were fed by a child’s relative and stayed in an area behind the child’s house. He and Wooten said outside experts will be called to take bite mark measurements and do other tests.

No charges have been filed, and Cannon said “there’s obviously a lot of grief,” and that it was “too early to make any statements” about whether any neglect was involved. He added that deputies were summoned to the area in 2010 in connection with a dog attack but he had no immediate details about that incident and whether it involved the same dogs.

It’s the second fatal dog attack in the past six weeks. On April 20, a dog in Ridgeville killed Aiden McGrew, a two-month-old boy. The infant’s father, Quintin McGrew, was charged with homicide by neglect.

Family members gathered outside the house Monday after Sunday night’s incident. The attack happened in a cluster of homes behind the sweetgrass basket stalls near U.S. 17’s intersection with S.C. Highway 41.

The boy’s father, Kerry Robinson, shook his head as family members talked about his son and showed photographs of the toddler eating a hot dog and playing beside a pool. “He liked to run around and play a lot,” Robinson said.

Johnson, the boy’s aunt, said the dogs belonged to a relative who lived next door. The dogs had never attacked any children, but she said her nephew was afraid of them. “They were big dogs,” she said. “But we had never had any problems with them.” She said that their son was well-take care of by her and other family members.

She smiled as she recalled how the boy used to run to her when she got home from her job managing a nearby hotel. “He would say, ‘Auntie Mom is home! Auntie Mom is home!’ We’re so sad about what happened but grateful for the two years we had with him.”

Tony Bartelme is senior projects reporter for The Post and Courier. He has earned national honors from the Nieman, Scripps and National Press foundations and is a three-time finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Reach him at 843-937-5554 and @tbartelme