Grand jury opts against arrest in Summerville death once thought to be an accident

The 2013 death of a Summerville woman once thought to have accidentally fallen in a bathtub was recently deemed a homicide, but a grand jury found no evidence supporting anyone’s arrest in the killing, officials said Monday.

Dorchester County investigators had said that 37-year-old Tabetha Grooms died under suspicious circumstances in May that year. But Coroner Chris Nisbet later ruled it an accident.

That changed recently when Interim Coroner Katrina Patton signed off on an amended ruling declaring the death a homicide.

Throughout the investigation, deputies, state agents and local prosecutors worked “to ensure a thorough and exhaustive review of facts” that were then presented Jan. 28 to the grand jury, Capt. Tony Phinney of the Dorchester County Sheriff’s Office said. But the jurors found no probable cause for an indictment, he said.

“The Dorchester County Sheriff’s office will continue to investigate this case and follow up on any and all new leads and information,” Phinney added.

Patton acknowledged that she amended the ruling, but she would not discuss why. Patton, the county’s chief magistrate, took over as coroner in October after Nisbet was suspended in an unrelated case.

The authorities said Grooms had suffered a series of falls leading up to her May 9 death. Days before, they said, she fell down some stairs at her son’s Florida home.

She never went to a hospital, but investigators feared she suffered an injury that got worse.

She fell again at her house on Turner Street. Her husband told investigators that he took Grooms to the bathroom and left her there to get a shower. But he soon found her unconscious, her husband told the officials.

The husband later summoned paramedics, but she died at a hospital.

When he ruled the death accidental, Nisbet said he “cannot judge someone due to their personal choices” to not get medical attention sooner.

“What we can do, and have done,” he said, “is prove that her death was not by the hand of another.”

Christina Elmore contributed to this report. Reach Andrew Knapp at 843-937-5414 or twitter.com/offlede.