Testimony begins in murder trial of disabled 13-year-old in Colleton Co.

The state began its case against a couple accused of killing a disabled 13-year-old girl by leaving her in a car in 2019 for five hours.
Published: Aug. 29, 2023 at 4:04 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 29, 2023 at 11:02 PM EDT
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COLLETON COUNTY, S.C. (WCSC) - The state began its case against a couple accused of killing a disabled 13-year-old girl by leaving her in a car in 2019 for five hours.

Cristina Pangalangan had cerebral palsy and lived with her mother, Rita Pangalangan. The child’s mother, and her mother’s boyfriend, Larry King are each facing a murder charge, inflicting bodily harm to a child and conspiracy.

Fourteenth Circuit Solicitor Duffie Stone and Deputy Solicitor Sean Thornton are prosecuting the case. Stone explained that because of her cerebral palsy, Cristina could not talk, walk or use her hands.

“She wasn’t like a normal 13-year-old teenager. She couldn’t be shipped off to the mall when Rita and Larry wanted to be alone. She had to be taken care of, she had to be watched, or she had to be put somewhere,” Stone said.

Stone ended his opening arguments saying it gives him no pleasure to describe the tragedy that happened to Cristina Pangalangan, comparing her to being treated like baggage.

“She could not open the car door to free herself. She couldn’t even scream for help,” Stone said.

The prosecution called thirteen witnesses on the first day of the case, ranging from investigators and medical staff to people who knew the family and Cristina.

The state called investigators and medical staff who confirmed Rita Pangalangan and Larry King tested positive through blood samples for methamphetamines in their system on the day of the incident.

The defense countered and confirmed through the witness that meth can test as positive in the bloodstream up to three days after it is taken.

Another witness was a student of the former Colleton County teacher Rita Pangalangan. Lindsay Lewis says she came over to learn how to babysit Cristina. That same night, immediately after her talk about caring for Cristina, the couple went out for a date leaving Lewis in charge. Lewis said the couple was gone from Friday evening to Sunday evening with no communication on Saturday at all about their plans.

A former renter who lived in the Pangalangan household also testified that she often watched Cristina. Brittany Honeycutt said that Rita Pangalangan would leave Cristina at the house in the renter’s care without asking them or when they had already said no because of conflicts.

“So when I told her the first time, she kept asking over and over again and when she realized that the answer was not going to change from no…she had told me that I could still take her and leave her in my car with the windows down because she does it all the time… because she does it all the time,” Honeycutt said.

Moments after describing the situation, Honeycutt identified who she was talking about by pointing to Rita Pangalangan in the courtroom.

A climatology expert testified that the estimated internal temperature of the car could have been about 135 degrees given the condition on Aug. 5, 2019 in Ruffin where the car was parked in the driveway.

Pangalangan and King are out on bond. They each sat with their respective attorney during the trial. During breaks, King often talked to family members sitting behind him in court. Two of Panglangan’s adult daughters are also attending the trial. They chose to sit behind the prosecution and expressed that they were there on behalf of Cristina.

The prosecution continued its case by walking step by step through surveillance video from a home security camera that will continue into the next day of testimony.