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Former deputy coroner bails out of jail after murder charge

Former deputy coroner bails out of jail after murder charge

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CONWAY, S.C. — A former deputy coroner charged with murder in a missing man's death has been released from a South Carolina jail.

Horry County jail records show Chris Dontell was released to "home detention" after a judge set bail at $125,000 during a Thursday hearing.

Meagan Jackson, who along with Dontell is charged with murder and conspiracy in the death of Gregory Rice, remained jailed Friday after a judge set bail for her at $100,000.

Thursday's hearing revealed new details in Rice's death, local news outlets report. Rice, 46, was found Nov. 8 near the Little Pee Dee River in Horry County, more than a month after he was reported missing by Jackson.

Prosecutors said Thursday that surveillance footage showed Dontell, 37, pushing a shopping cart with cement blocks, zip ties and a tarp. Chief Deputy Solicitor Scott Hixson said Rice's body was found in the same tarp.

Dontell's lawyer suggested that video footage might show Dontell is an accessory to murder, rather than Rice's killer.

Hixson said Jackson, 35, was the mother to four of Rice's children. The two ended their relationship about a year ago, but continued to speak to each other because they shared custody of the children.

The victim's oldest son asked Judge Steven John to deny bail and keep the two behind bars as they await trial.

"Given the allegedly brutal and remediated nature of my father's murder, I believe both Meagan Jackson and Chris Dontell present an ongoing risk to the community," Zachary Rice said. He is not Jackson's son, but Rice's child from an earlier relationship.

Dontell had been a Horry County deputy coroner, but was fired when he became a suspect. Hixson said the two suspects became romantically involved in part because Jackson worked as a subcontractor for the coroner's office.

Hixson said officers went to Jackson's home on Thursday with a search warrant. He said they found evidence of child abuse and the state plans to file additional criminal charges, providing no further details.

John stated Dontell is to have no contact with the victim's family or the co-defendant and to remain on home detention.

The judge said he set bail because he didn't consider Dontell a flight risk or a danger to the community because he lacked a criminal record.

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