Several men and women wailed in grief and prayer as they huddled around the youngest member of their large family.
Ja’Marr Tiller had been bitten repeatedly by an animal after relatives said the 2-year-old rose from his bed Sunday night and crept unnoticed into the backyard of his Mount-Pleasant-area home.
The group’s screams and cries were laced with anger. Paramedics pressed on the boy’s chest, futilely trying to revive him as he lay on a walkway to the front porch.
“All of the people in the crowd appeared distraught and angry,” a deputy wrote in a report detailing the attack’s aftermath. “(I) heard one state they had ‘told (the boy’s great-uncle) those dogs were going to hurt the children and had been chasing them in the yard.’?”
The supplemental incident report, taken Wednesday from a stack of public documents at the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office, contradicts what family members and neighbors have said publicly about the two dogs captured after the incident.
The female black Labrador-shepherd mixes previously were described as junkyard dogs that would wander onto the family’s property and eat food scraps. Relatives and area residents said the animals had never acted viciously toward people and often would cower or walk away if encountered.
Richard Seabrook Sr., Ja’Marr’s great-uncle, told deputies that he owns three dogs, two of which were kept in a fenced-in area near a mobile home adjacent to the house.
The third dog, a black one, was wandering around and threw up in the driveway. A deputy used crime-scene tape to cordon off the vomit as evidence.
“(Seabrook) also stated another brown dog comes to visit, but (Seabrook) does not know who owns it,” the report said.
The dog that vomited was captured about two hours after the mauling, and the brown one was snagged in a baited trap a short time later.
While searching the backyard, which is littered with old cars, plastic pails and scrap metal, a deputy found a marijuana plant growing from the ground, according to the report.
Seabrook, who lives at the home with several other adults and children, is a felon. He was convicted in 1977 of assault and battery with intent to kill, according to the State Law Enforcement Division. He spent three years in prison.
Since then, he has two traffic arrests and one charge of possession of marijuana.
The boy’s uncle, 38-year-old Zalander Tiller, also has lived at the house, according to court documents. He is a felon with a long arrest record, including more than 20 cocaine, marijuana and crack charges, according to SLED.
Sheriff’s officials have not said whether they expect anyone to be arrested in connection with the animal attack.
Seabrook told investigators that he saw Ja’Marr inside the house about an hour before his bloody, naked body was found in the backyard. He thought the toddler was upstairs when the attack happened.
The boy’s mother, 21-year-old Deandra Tiller, had left to run errands. She discovered him lying in the yard when she returned just before 8:30 p.m.
Family members said they were unaware of the mother’s departure.
Sheriff’s investigators are trying to determine whether the two dogs they caught were involved with the killing or if another dog or a wild animal played a role. They have not discussed any evidence leading them to a particular culprit.
Coyotes, which resemble small shepherd dogs, are known to be prevalent throughout Mount Pleasant. Additionally, a feral dog has been spotted in the neighborhood, residents have said.
Coyotes feed on food scraps left outside homes and are known to prey on small dogs and cats. Attacks against people are rare, though most human victims tend to be less than 5 years old.
Cathy Tiller, the boy’s grandmother who was home at the time, echoed relatives’ earlier comments that none of the dogs ever showed aggression.
“We’ve never had an incident like this happen with dogs,” she said. “If there was a stray or a coyote running around, we should’ve been alerted about it before this happened, not after.”
Reach Andrew Knapp at 937-5414 or twitter.com/offlede.