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Man, woman charged with murder in Colleton County after girl's death in hot car

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Rita Pangalangan and Larry King

Rita Pangalangan and Larry King. Colleton County Sheriff's Office/Provided

Two Colleton County residents were charged in connection with the death of a 13-year-old girl who was left in a vehicle Monday. 

Rita Pangalangan, a 49-year-old Walterboro resident, and Larry King, a 41-year-old Ruffin resident, face one count each of murder, according to the Colleton County Sheriff's Office. 

The victim is Pangalangan's daughter, said Richard Harvey the county coroner.

She was identified as Christina Pangalangan, an eighth-grade student at Colleton County Middle School, according to a statement released on Wednesday by the Colleton County School District. An autopsy was scheduled for Wednesday.

The Associated Press reported that she was a teen with special needs.

In a statement, Sean Gruber, a district spokesman, described Christina as a motivated student who loved spending time with her classmates and "had a smile for all of the adults at school that worked with her." 

"She will be dearly missed by all who knew her," Gruber said.  

Authorities were called shortly before 4 p.m. Monday to 11685 Lowcountry Highway after receiving a 911 call about a child who was left in a vehicle, the Sheriff's Office said. The address is King's residence, according to court records.

"Once on the scene, emergency responders found a 13-year-old girl lying on the ground next to a vehicle," the Sheriff's Office said. "Upon further investigation, the juvenile was declared deceased."

Little is known about the circumstances surrounding the girl's death besides the charges filed against King and Pangalangan, who works for the Colleton County School District. The State Law Enforcement Division's Child Fatality and Crime Scene units are assisting in the investigation.

Pangalangan, who has been an educator with the district since 1994, has been placed on paid administrative leave, Gruber said. Pangalangan is a teacher in the Thunderbolt Career and Technology Center in Walterboro where she works with students who aspired to become educators.

Colleton County Fire-Rescue Chief Barry McRoy said that, when officials arrived, a family member had taken the girl out of the vehicle and laid her on the ground. She was pronounced dead at the scene. McRoy estimated she may have been in the vehicle for up to two hours.

Temperatures in the area Monday, between the hours of 2 and 4 p.m., reached as high as 91 degrees, National Weather Service forecasters said. During Summer months, the inside temperature of a vehicle can quickly reach 120 degrees, according to the American Red Cross.

The girl's death is the second such incident recorded for South Carolina in 2019, according to, an organization that tracks auto-related heat stroke deaths.

Last year, the Palmetto State had six auto-related heat stroke deaths — the nation's highest rate in 2018, according to the organization.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with Cristina Pangalangan's name and a statement from the Colleton County School District. 

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Reach Michael Majchrowicz at 843-937-5591. Follow him on Twitter @mjmajchrowicz.

Michael Majchrowicz is a reporter covering crime and public safety. He previously wrote about courts for the Daily Hampshire Gazette in Northampton, Massachusetts. A Hoosier native, he graduated from Indiana University with a degree in journalism.

Gregory Yee covers breaking news and public safety. He's a native Angeleno and previously covered crime and courts for the Press-Telegram in Long Beach, CA. He studied journalism and Spanish literature at the University of California, Irvine.

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