SC 5th grader died of natural causes, no criminal charges to be filed, investigators say

Attorneys representing child’s family say they are conducting their own investigation.
Updated: Apr. 19, 2019 at 12:12 PM CDT
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WALTERBORO, SC (WCSC) - No criminal charges will be filed in the March death of a 10-year-old Colleton County girl who died after a fight in her classroom, the solicitor says.

Fourteenth Circuit Solicitor Duffie Stone told reporters Friday morning Wright died from natural causes, the result of a rupture of blood vessels in a rare condition known as arteriovenous malformation, or AVM, in her brain.

“In this case, the science is very clear,” Stone said. “The science shows us her death was natural.”

The child had repeatedly complained of headaches in the days and weeks before her death, he said.

Stone classified the condition as a “birth defect” and said there was no sign of trauma on Wright’s body. He said there were no signs of bruises, cuts, scrapes busted lips or black eyes.

Wright, a fifth grader at Forest Hills Elementary School in Walterboro, died at MUSC two days after a March 25 fight in her classroom.

Stone said Wright had complained of headaches prior to the incident and visited a doctor seven times since February 2017.

Sheriff R.A. Strickland said investigators interviewed approximately 15 students on the day of the incident.

“This does not appear to be a case of bullying,” he said. He also said the teacher was in the room and behind the desk when the incident, which was described as a five to 10 second “slap fight," occurred.

Attorneys representing the mother of a 10-year-old Colleton County girl say they will “trust but verify” reports that the child died from natural causes and not from any trauma caused by a classroom fight in March.

Attorney Margie Pizarro presented multiple reports of an ongoing dispute between Raniya Wright and a second student who she said was involved in the fight with Wright. Pizarro said they are conducting an independent investigation into Wright’s death.

After Friday’s news conference, attorney Mark Peper issued a statement on behalf of Raniya Wright’s father, Jermaine Van Dyke:

"Mr. Van Dyke appreciates the efforts made by law enforcement to date that allowed for some of his many questions to be answered this morning. Our team will be reviewing all medical and investigative reports in the coming days in an effort to better understand the events leading up to Raniya’s tragic death.”

CLICK HERE for a timeline of the death investigation.

Ahead of Friday’s news conference, authorities released few details about the incident, citing the ongoing investigation and incomplete autopsy results.

Earlier this week, community members and members of Wright’s family were frustrated after the Colleton County School Board met behind closed doors for the second time since Wright’s death to get details about the investigation, but then released no details.

The other student, whose name has not been released, was suspended following the incident, according to Colleton County School District spokesman Sean Gruber, but there has been no official word on whether the student has since returned to the classroom.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Copyright 2019 WCSC. The Associated Press contributed to the report. All rights reserved.