South Carolina deputy coroner accused of murder in man's disappearance, death

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A man who works as a coroner investigating suspicious deaths is facing a murder rap in South Carolina.

Deputy Horry County Coroner Christopher Dontell is one of two individuals who have been arrested in the disappearance and death of 46-year-old Gregory Rice near Myrtle Beach, authorities said.

Mugshots for Meagan Marie Jackson,35, and Deputy Horry County Coroner Christopher Dontell.  
(Horry County Sheriff’s Office )

The other is Meagan Marie Jackson, a 35-year-old woman, who is the mother of four of Rice’s children, WMBF-TV reported after interviewing Rice’s brother.

Horry County Coroner Robert Edge said he learned Dontell would be questioned by police in connection with Rice’s disappearance on Oct. 5. That was the day Rice was reported missing, police said. Rice was last seen three days prior.

Gregory Rice’s body was found Monday. He was reported missing Oct. 5.
(Horry County Police Department)

“Permission was given to examine Chris Dontell’s county phone and vehicle at that time,” Edge said.

The corner said that he suspended Dontell on Oct. 23, the day Dontell was told by police that he was officially under investigation in the disappearance.

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Edge said he fired Dontell on Tuesday the day after police found Rice's body.

Dontell and Jackson were arrested Wednesday.

Dontell lived with his wife and two children in a gated community where Jackson also lived, WPDE-TV reported.

Rice’s brother, Steve Rice, told WMBF his brother and Jackson became involved in a relationship in 2006 but never married. He said he first heard about Dontell after his brother’s body was found.

“It was horrible to find out but at the same time, it was a relief because you just … when somebody’s missing you just don’t know and it gnaws on you, and you just don’t know,” Rice said.

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“Sadly we had to find out the worst but at least we know,” he said.

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