Teacher, boyfriend charged in 13-year-old’s death
by The Press and Standard | August 8, 2019 5:00 am
Last Updated: August 8, 2019 at 7:34 am
A Walterboro woman and her Ruffin boyfriend, who allegedly left the woman’s 13-year-old disabled daughter inside the family car for approximately five hours, have been charged with murder.
Rita M. Pangalangan, 49, of 1867 Academy Road and Larry King, 41, of 11685 Lowcountry Highway in Ruffin, came to the small window that separated them from the small courtroom to appear before Magistrate Keisha D. Gadsden for bond hearings the afternoon of Aug. 6.
As part of the bond hearings a representative of the victim’s family was given an opportunity to speak. Elizabeth Clyde, Pangalangan’s adult daughter, spoke during both hearings, stating she believed her sister’s death had been a tragic accident. “She’s a good mother,” Clyde said several times as she addressed Gadsden.
After the reading of the charges, Gadsden informed the suspects that they were being held without bond, explaining that magistrates cannot set a bond on a murder charge. Circuit court judges make decisions on bonds for defendants facing murder charges.
The murder affidavit against both suspects prepared by Colleton County Sheriff Office Investigator Edward J. Marcurella Jr. alleged that they had killed Cristina Pangalangan by leaving “the 13-year-old disabled child, which is incapable of caring for herself, in a vehicle for several hours unattended.”
Marcurella’s affidavit alleges that the couple put the girl in Pangalangan’s Volkswagen Jetta at 11 a.m. on Aug. 5. Pangalagan allegedly checked on the girl at about 12:15 p.m.
Then at about 3 p.m., according to the affidavit, Pangalagan returned to the vehicle and found the vehicle locked with the keys inside.
The couple then left the Lowcountry Highway home to retrieve a spare set of keys.
They returned to the home at about 4:15 p.m. and found Cristina dead.
They removed her from the car, placed her on the ground and called emergency dispatch center at 4:50 p.m.
The Colleton County Sheriff’s Office and Colleton County Fire-Rescue were dispatched to King’s Lowcountry Highway home; their level of response to the emergency call closed Lowcountry Highway to traffic.
The timeline Marcurella spelled out in his arrest affidavit differed from information King, Pangalangan’s boyfriend for five years, supplied dispatchers. He alleged that the girl had been locked in the motor vehicle for about two hours.
Fire-Rescue personnel on the scene confirmed that the child was deceased.
Local officials then contacted the Colleton County Coroner’s Office and the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division’s Child Fatality and Crime Scene Divisions.
State law requires that SLED’s Child Fatality Division participate in the investigation of any suspicious child’s death.
Crime scene personnel arrived at the home to collect evidence. Fire-Rescue vehicles remained on Lowcountry Highway to provide lighting for investigators to continue processing the scene after sunset.
Colleton County Coroner Richard Harvey said he would not provide any information about the death until an autopsy, scheduled to be conducted late afternoon of Wednesday Aug. 7, was completed. He turned the results of the autopsy over to the 14th DIstrict Solicitor’s Office. Jeff Kidd, communications director, said the office will not be releasing any information on the cause of death due to the on-going investigation.
Shortly after the investigation began, Pangalangan and King were arrested in connection with the death and transported to Colleton County Detention Center.
The school district said teacher Rita Pangalangan has been placed on administrative leave, with full pay and benefits, effective immediately, pending more information.
Pangalangan has spent the past school year teaching early childhood education at the Thunderbolt Career and Technology Center. She has been employed by the school district since 1994.