Attorney calls coroner's inquest in to toddler's death 'a circus'

Attorney calls coroner's inquest in to toddler's death 'a circus'
Elijah Washington's picture displayed on a monitor at Coroner Wooten's inquest into his death. (Source: Live 5)
Elijah Washington's picture displayed on a monitor at Coroner Wooten's inquest into his death. (Source: Live 5)

MOUNT PLEASANT, SC (WCSC) - Charleston County Coroner Rae Wooten held an inquest on Tuesday into the 2013 death of a Mount Pleasant toddler.

Elijah Washington was two years old when he died on March 19, 2013.

The police report states the toddler suffered "severe abdominal injuries as a result of blunt force trauma." The coroner has already deemed the death a homicide but no one has been criminally charged.

Investigators initially charged Bryan Seabrook in the child's death, but those charges were dismissed in September 2015, according to court records.

"In examining the facts available to the prosecution at this point, it is clear the case would not survive a directed verdict motion," wrote Deborah Herring- Lash, Special Victims Prosecutor in the Ninth Circuit Solicitor's Office in September 2015.

The inquest, which could last days, allows the coroner to call family members and experts to take the stand. With the help of an six-member jury, coroner Wooten will act as a judge, able to suggest charges.

The Solicitor's Office will ultimately make the decision to move forward.

Mark Peper, the attorney for Bryan Seabrook, says the inquest has been "a circus."

He says investigators have done the job correctly in the past, and now feels the coroner is abusing her powers. Wooten called several medical professionals and law enforcement officers to the stand on Tuesday.

She also asked Seabrook to testify where he decided to invoke his fifth amendment right.

"He didn't have anything else to add, he didn't have anything to recant," Peper said. "They already have done a two-and-a-half year investigation."

Now with this inquest, Peper feels his client is being targeted again for a crime he did not commit.

"Every question that comes from the non-lawyered coroner is leading. Every question is pointing in the direction of Mr. Seabrook. I feel terrible for the jury, and I will commend them, they are doing a heck of a job. They are actually asking pointed questions."

At the time of Washington's death, investigators noted several bruises on his body.

Medical professionals say there were a variety from different time periods and the woman who did the autopsy said "those injuries made him more vulnerable over time and something that day pushed him over the edge."

At the time of the toddler's death, Washington lived with his grandmother, Seabrook (the grandmother's boyfriend, Washington's mother and his two sisters.

Washington's grandmother was also called to the stand; she invoked her fifth amendment right.

More testimony is expected to come from DSS workers who were involved with cases surrounding his injuries.

Seabrook told investigators at the time, the problem began when the child was sitting at a table at home and vomited chips he had just eaten. He said he gave the child a bath and shortly after the bath, the child soiled his diaper, an incident report states.

The man told investigators he changed the child again and gave him some vitamin water. Investigators said the man told them he noticed Washington appeared to be weak and slumped over as he was in the bath tub.

The man told investigators the child was then placed in a room to watch a movie with his sister, but when the man returned to the room a few minutes later to check on the child, the toddler was lying on his back and his jaw appeared to be locked shut. The man attempted to administer CPR and saw blood coming from the toddler's nose and then immediately transported the child to the hospital, the report states.

Seabrook is now suing the coroner's office and the Town of Mount Pleasant for negligence, false arrest and malicious prosecution.

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