TIMELINE: Raniya Wright death investigation
WALTERBORO, SC (WCSC) - The wait for answers in the death of a 10-year-old Colleton County student may be over Friday when investigators hold a news conference in Walterboro.
Here is a timeline on the death of Raniya Wright, a fifth grader at Forest Hills Elementary.
- Authorities respond to what the Colleton County School District described as a fight in a classroom at Forest Hills Elementary School in Waltberboro. The fight involved two students, district officials say. EMS workers say they are notified that a student collapses after the incident. That student, who will be identified days later as Raniya Wright, 10, is unconscious but breathing in the school nurse’s station. Crews airlift her to MUSC in Charleston for treatment.
- The Colleton County School District confirms the other student involved in the fight has been suspended. That student’s name is not released.
- Wright dies at 9:39 a.m. at MUSC.
- The Colleton County School Board makes its first public statements on Wright’s death following a closed-door meeting during which board members hear from deputies about the investigation. School District Board Chairman Tim Mabry reads a prepared statement after the board came out of executive session, stating that the district is cooperating fully with investigators. He also asks the community to remain patient while the investigation continues. Colleton County School District Superintendent Dr. Franklin Fuller also makes brief remarks, extending condolences to the Wright family and asking the community to help in “preventing the spread of rumors and speculations.”
- That evening, members of the community gather for a candlelight vigil to remember Wright and a second person, 22-year-old Derek Smith, who was shot and killed in an unrelated incident by a Colleton County deputy on March 22. The feeling among many at the vigil is that they are hurting and they want answers.
- Colleton County Coroner Richard Harvey conducts an autopsy on Wright.
- Attorneys Margie Pizarro and Myesha Browns, representing Ashley Wright, the mother of Raniya, say they will formally request the complete investigative file and pertinent information from the sheriff’s office and the school district.
- Colleton County Sheriff R.A. Strickland and 14th Circuit Solicitor Duffie Sloan hold a news conference stating that results of the autopsy could take weeks to come in and that it is too early to say whether criminal charges will be filed in the case.
- Wright's family announce funeral plans for that Wednesday and thank the community for their "many thoughts, prayers and expressions of kindness."
- Jermain Van Dyke, the father of Raniya, holds a news conference that morning saying he is looking for justice for his daughter. Van Dyke’s attorney, Mark Peper, says his team spoke with the teacher who was in the classroom and alleges a “pattern of behavior” over the last four or five years and that the school was aware of other “altercations” in the classroom.
- State Sen. Margie Bright Matthews, who represents Walterboro, speaks about the incident on the Senate floor in Columbia, saying she has spoken to Wright’s family and others. She says the incident initially appeared to be a “simple back and forth” between two young girls, describing it as only “a small scuffle.” She says Wright "was not kicked or attacked by several students and did not bang her head during the incident, apparently in an effort to quell rumors on social media.
- Attorneys representing RaNiya Wright’s mother release a statement saying that they are “disappointed” with what Matthews’ public remarks.
- Attorney Mark Peper, representing Wright’s father, issues a statement stating he is glad Matthews “has been able to at least find out some relevant information because no one from the Sheriff’s Office has bothered to call the father of RaNiya.”
- The Colleton County School District releases a statement in reaction to Matthews' comments, stating it understands members of the community "may have questions and concerns" but say it is important for the district to ensure the investigation is complete before they make comments on the incident.
- School district officials say Forest Hills Elementary students who wish to attend Wright’s funeral the following day will have an excused absence.
- Family and friends gather for Wright’s funeral in Walterboro exactly one week after the child’s death. Two white horses pull a white carriage carrying Wright’s white coffin outside Saints Center Ministries.
- Forest Hills Elementary School holds a remembrance day for Wright.
- The Lowcountry United Soccer League plays their game in honor of Wright with plans to donate a portion of ticket sales to the Wright family to help cover any medical expenses.
- Sen. Matthews releases a statement on her remarks the previous week on the incident, saying she did not mean to “minimize or trivialize the altercation between the girls,” adding that she was “simply sharing that by all accounts, this was not a gang fight.”
- Ashley Wright, in an interview on “Good Morning America,” claims her daughter hit her head on a bookshelf at some point prior to her death.
- The Colleton County School Board holds its second executive session meeting since Wright’s death during which board members are believed to have been briefed on the status of the investigation. Members of Wright’s family who attend the meeting ask to be allowed to sit in on the briefing but are denied. This time, board members make no public statement about the case, angering people who had attended the meeting hoping for answers.
- Investigators schedule a news conference for Friday morning at 10:15 a.m. at which time they say they will announce the conclusion of the initial findings and will answer questions.
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