Myrtle Beach, SC – A former Horry County deputy coroner was arrested Nov. 11 and charged with murder along with the mother of the victim’s four children.
Gregory Vincent Rice was reported missing on Oct. 5 although police said the last time he was believed to have been heard from was three days earlier than that, WMBF reported.
A spokesman for the Horry County Police (HCPD) said officers searched the area on foot, deployed bloodhounds to search multiple times, interviewed people who knew Rice, and tracked his cell phone before they ultimately found his body.
Police found Rice deceased by the Little Pee Dee River on Nov. 8, near Pitts Landing off of Highway 378, near the Horry County and Marion County line, WPDE reported.
Detectives with the Horry County Police Department Criminal Investigations Division had already identified then Horry County Deputy Coroner Christopher Allen Dontell, 37, as a suspect in the murder.
Dontell was notified that he was a suspect and under investigation in late October, and he was fired by the coroner’s office the morning after Rice’s body was found by the river, The Post and Courier reported.
He had been employed by the coroner’s office for two-and-a-half years, WMBF reported.
“On or about October 5 my Chief Deputy, Tamara Willard, was briefed on the disappearance of Greg Rice by HCPD and informed that Deputy Coroner Chris Dontell would be questioned with regard to the investigation. Permission was given to examine Chris Dontell’s county phone and vehicle at that time,” Horry County Coroner Robert Edge’s office said in a statement.
“On October 23 Chris Dontell was informed by HCPD that he was officially under investigation in this disappearance at which point he was suspended immediately from Horry County Coroner’s Office (through verbal interaction), denied access to all county property and promptly removed from the call schedule,” Edge continued.
“On Monday November 9 Mr. Dontell was terminated from Horry County Coroner’s Office, due to the nature of this ongoing investigation nothing further will be released from this office. Please direct all questions to HCPD,” the coroner’s statement concluded.
Police arrested Dontell and 35-year-old Meagan Marie Jackson at two different houses in the same neighborhood on Nov. 11, WPDE reported.
Jackson and the victim had four children together but had never been married.
The victim’s brother, Steve Rice, said Rice had moved with Jackson to the Grand Strand in 2013, WMBF reported.
Neighbors said Dontell lived with his wife and two children.
Dontell and Jackson were booked into the J. Reuben Long Detention Center and charged with murder on Nov. 11, WPDE reported.
The language used in the charging affidavits for both Dontell and Jackson is the same and said they did “act in concert with others with malice aforethought to murder the victim, Gregory Vincent Rice,” WPDE reported. “The defendant and others did conspire to kill the victim and the victim did die as a result of their actions.”
The charging documents said the evidence gathered included witness statements as well as forensic, physical, and digital evidence.
A bond hearing for Dontell and Jackson was scheduled for Nov. 12 but was cancelled, WPDE reported.
A corrections officer told the television station that they had both waived their right to a hearing.