Solicitor's Office: Will not prosecute couple in 2013 death of toddler

Coroner's inquest: Jury finds man responsible in toddler's death

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - A jury in Charleston County Coroner Rae Wooten's inquest has ruled that a toddler died by homicide at the hands of his babysitter.

The verdict stated Bryan Seabrook was responsible for the homicide of Elijah Washington, 2, on March 19, 2013.

It took about 80 minutes for the jury to make the decision Wednesday evening.

In addition, the jury ruled that Marty Dixon, Washington's grandmother, was an accessory in Washington's death.

Wednesday night Ninth Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson stated if arrest results from the inquest, "We will not prosecute it. There are no new facts, erroneous testimony and exculpatory information that was not presented to the jury."

Seabrook was a former suspect in the death of Washington, which was attributed to severe injuries to his stomach. Authorities have said there is no doubt the child died from abuse, but it is not clear who is responsible.

The solicitor's office had originally dropped the charges against Seabrook in September 2015.

Seabrook's attorney, Mark Peper, said he was not surprised by Wednesday's verdict, and said he expected this 'circus' to happen.

"I don't think this surprised anyone that the two people who decided to exercise their fifth amendment right not to testify, were found to be the principal and accessory, respectfully, in the child's death," he said.

Under statute, the Coroner now has the sole ability to sign an arrest warrant for Seabrook and Dixon.

"I expect that to happen, because if it doesn't happen what was the point of these two days?" he said. "So at this point now, it's a foregone conclusion she's going to arrest Bryan and Marty Dixon."

Peper went on to add, that's he's confident arrests will happen shortly and is "equally as confident" those charges will be dismissed by the Solicitor's Office or a judge "by the end of next week."

When the initial charge against Seabrook was dropped, the Solicitor's Special Victims Prosecutor, Deborah Herring-Lash, stated, "If a Coroner's Inquest is deemed appropriate, we would like to be involved."

During the two-day testimony, no prosecutors were called to the stand, but Peper says the lead prosecutor who was assigned to this case was in the courtroom both days.

"I was surprised she was not called to testify," Peper said. "I was surprised she did not assist the Coroner in any way. I'm not surprised she was there because she, rightly so, was probably feeling Wooten's doing this was because there was some sort of new information they were no privy to."

Earlier in the day, the jury heard from Brittney Hartwell, the mother of Elijah Washington, who described her son as a happy child who was very attuned to people's emotions.

Hartwell said there were some issues with his health after she regained custody of him in December 2012. During that time, Washington was brought to an urgent care center for what turned out to be a fractured leg, according to testimony at the inquest Wednesday. However, Hartwell said she did not know how that happened.

On the day of her son's death, Hartwell said she was with her ex-boyfriend celebrating her birthday when she found out Washington had been taken to the hospital.

"I couldn't believe it. I couldn't believe that anyone could hurt him," Hartwell said. "He was two... I never thought something like that could happen to him."

Washington was brought to the hospital by his babysitter, who Hartwell said was her mother's boyfriend, Bryan Seabrook. Hartwell testified she left Washington in Seabrook's care because her mother trusted him, and therefore she trusted him as well.

Seabrook was initially arrested and charged with homicide by child abuse, but those charges were dropped last September because of a lack of evidence. Seabrook has since filed a lawsuit against the Town of Mount Pleasant and Wooten, claiming he was falsely arrested, and did not hurt the child.

Washington's great-grandmother, Dorothy Williams, also testified on Wednesday and said she had custody of Washington from the time he was born up until he was 18 months old; she pleaded for answers in the toddler's death.

Williams testified the child would come back with bumps and bruises after visiting his mother and grandmother.

"All I know is something happened to him," Williams said. "I just want some justice for him because he deserves better."

Testimony from Washington's Guardian ad litem, several medical professionals, DSS workers and his cousin took the stand Wednesday afternoon.

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