Charleston County Coroner Rae Wooten will hold an inquest into the death of a 2-year-old boy fatally mauled this spring in his Mount Pleasant-area backyard, she announced this morning.
Ja’Marr Tiller was killed after he walked through an unlocked door on the evening of May 27. His mother discovered his bitten body when she returned from doing errands, authorities have said.
Other relatives inside the house at the time thought the toddler was asleep and were not aware of the mother’s departure, according to earlier reports.
Two female black Labrador-shepherd mixes, described by deputies as yard dogs that a family member fed but did not claim as pets, were blamed for the attack.
Wooten said she wants the inquest to “air the facts and obtain testimony” so that a jury might determine if someone is at fault for the boy’s death. Six jurors and an alternate will be selected, and witnesses will be subpoenaed to testify.
Wooten will act as a judge.
“An inquest is a powerful tool for me to gather facts,” she said in a statement. “At the end of the day, the jury is charged with getting back to me a decision on the manner of death.
“Tiller’s death was not natural or a suicide, but is it appropriate to say it’s an accident or to charge someone with neglect?”
Today’s announcement was expected, as the coroner said in the week after the attack that an inquest was likely. But the proceeding is rare.
The last inquest by the Charleston County Coroner’s Office came in December 2008 regarding a plane crash the year before. While the death was initially ruled accidental, the manner was changed to “undetermined.”
The inquest, scheduled for 9 a.m. Aug. 10, should last at day, Wooten said.
Reach Andrew Knapp at 937-5414 or twitter.com/offlede.