Authorities release pictures of dogs seized in toddler's death

Published: May. 28, 2012 at 10:53 AM EDT|Updated: May. 30, 2012 at 1:11 PM EDT
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Ja'Marr Tiller
Ja'Marr Tiller

MT. PLEASANT, SC (WCSC) - Authorities have released pictures of two dogs which were seized in connection to a 2-year-old's death.

The Charleston County Sheriff's Office released four pictures of the dogs taken in the death investigation of Ja'Marr Tiller, who was reportedly attacked by dogs at a home in Mount Pleasant.

In a newly released 911 call, an aunt frantically calls for help as she reports that her nephew,  Tiller, was attacked by a dog at a family's home Sunday night.

"The dog attacked my nephew! I think he's dying! Please, please!" Octavia Johnson said to emergency personnel. "Lord we need you! Lord we need you!"

Throughout the call the call dispatch official tries to calm Johnson down several times as crying can be heard in the background. According to Mt. Pleasant dispatch officials, the incident happened about 8:30 p.m. Sunday in the 2700 Block of Highway 17 North, near Highway 41.

The Charleston County Sheriff's Office also revealed on Tuesday that there had been three prior calls to the residence in July 2010 to report stray dogs in the area. Authorities say a trap was set in the area to catch stray dogs, but none were captured.

Authorities said that they will need to enlist the services of animal-bite specialists after an autopsy proved inconclusive for Tiller. Johnson said Tiller had been put to bed for the night before he wandered outside and was attacked by the dogs behind the house.

The aunt said the mother was not home at the time of the incident, but came home and discovered that the clothes had been ripped off of her fatally-injured son.  Tiller was rushed to MUSC, but succumbed to his injuries.

The dogs, a female black labrador-shepherd mix and a female brindle labrador-shepherd mix, were taken from the home by Charleston County Animal Control.

Authorities say those dogs were not family dogs, but the victim's uncle had been feeding them for years.

During a press conference on Monday, Sheriff Al Cannon and Coroner Rae Wooten provided some details on what the sheriff called "an extremely tragic situation."

Coroner Wooten said Tiller died from blunt and sharp trauma injuries but also said the autopsy didn't provide all the answers.

Sheriff Cannon added that animal-bite experts will be called in to determine specifics of the wounds, as investigators have not learned which, or if, the two dogs seized were responsible for the child's death. He also said there were no immediate plans to put the dogs down.

The coroner said there was no way to know how long the attack lasted.

When asked about the 2-year-old's relationship with the dogs, Octavia Johnson said the boy was afraid of the dogs.

Cannon said it's possible another dog may have been involved and that investigators do not know how the Tiller was able to leave his room and get out of the house.

The sheriff also said there were five people inside the home at the time of the incident, before adding that deputies were called to the home several years ago for another dog attack.

However, he couldn't provide more details. No charges have been filed yet and the investigation is ongoing.

Copyright 2012 WCSC.  All rights reserved.