Attorney of suspects in toddler's death files restraining order against coroner

Attorney of suspects in toddler's death files restraining order against coroner
Elijah Washington (Source: Live 5)
Bryan Seabrook (Source: CCSO)
Bryan Seabrook (Source: CCSO)
Mark Peper, attorney for Seabrook and Dixon, files temp restraining order against Coroner Rae Wooten. (Source: Live 5)
Mark Peper, attorney for Seabrook and Dixon, files temp restraining order against Coroner Rae Wooten. (Source: Live 5)

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - The attorney representing a couple implicated in a coroner's inquest into a toddler's death filed a restraining order against the Charleston County coroner.

Mark Peper, who represents Bryan Seabrook and Marty Dixon, said he has filed a temporary restraining order against Charleston County Coroner Rae Wooten. Dixon was Washington's grandmother.

The filing states "immediate and irreparable injury, loss and/or damages will result to the plaintiffs" unless Wooten is restrained from signing arrest warrants.

Late Friday, Wooten said she had not seen the filing, and therefore could not comment on it.

Wooten conducted an inquest this week into the death of two-year-old Elijah Washington, who died on March 19, 2013, while in Seabrook's care. The jury in the inquest decided Seabrook was responsible for Washington's death and that Dixon was an accessory.

The announcement comes hours after Wooten announced she had requested an opinion from the South Carolina Attorney General's Office on the results of the inquest. Wooten said the attorney general's office agreed to provide a response "in a timely manner."

The inquest was called to re-examine evidence and hear testimony in the child's death.

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 previously charged in Washington's death, which Wooten said was caused by severe injuries to the child's 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 dropped the charges against Seabrook in September 2015.

Seabrook filed a lawsuit against the Town of Mount Pleasant and Wooten earlier this week alleging negligence and false imprisonment.

Peper said after the inquest he was not surprised by the verdict, saying 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 has the sole ability to sign an arrest warrant for Seabrook and Dixon, something Peper said he expected to happen.

Peper went on to add he is 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."

Over the course of the two-day inquest, 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."

Washington's Guardian ad litem, several medical professionals, DSS workers and his cousin also took the stand during the inquest.