CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Authorities have identified the 13-year-old girl who authorities say died after being deliberately left in a car in Colleton County.
Officials with the Colleton County Coroner’s Office say Cristina Pangalangan died in Ruffin Monday afternoon.
A friend of Rita Pangalangan, who is a Colleton County teacher, said that’s not the woman she knows. Pangalangan and her boyfriend Larry King Jr. are both charged with murder.
No one was home Wednesday at the house on Lowcountry Highway in Ruffin where King lives.
Sitting outside was the car Colleton County deputies say Rita Pangalangan‘s daughter was placed in and died in after being left in it for several hours on Monday.
“I was completely stunned, speechless, couldn’t believe it, just couldn’t believe it,” Rochelle Byrd said Wednesday. Byrd’s daughter was taught by Pangalangan, a former teacher of the year.
Byrd hasn’t seen Pangalangan in several years.
“She was one of the best teacher’s I ever met,” Byrd said.”Honestly I don’t understand it. I don’t understand how any child can be supposedly left in a car, especially this child, the special needs that she had. That’s one of the first things you would think, she would get her child out of the car. It just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me.”
She also can’t understand that investigators say the 13-year-old was deliberately left in the car.
“I’m just stunned. I’m completely speechless," Byrd said."I don’t even know how to respond to that, knowing the person that I know her to be turned from that, being called a murderer is incredible."
Byrd says she can’t get the 13-year old girl off her mind.
“She’s back in the Lord’s hands,” Byrd said.
Both Pangalangan and King have criminal pasts. King has prior arrests for domestic violence and assault and battery.
Court records also show an assault and harassment charge against him were dismissed.
In January of this year, Pangalangan was arrested after being accused of stuffing candy bars in the gas tank of King’s truck.
According to the incident report, the couple was not dating at the time. King told officers he was leaving a bar and saw chocolate and what appeared to be peanuts in and around the nozzle of the gas tank.
He said it would cost between $500 and $600 to inspect and repair the damage.
Rita Pangalangan is on paid leave from the Colleton County School District following her arrest for murder.