RIDGEVILLE — While his father slept in a nearby bedroom, a 2-month-old boy who had been napping was mauled Friday by the family's newly adopted dog.
The boy, Aiden McGrew, was apparently pulled from an infant's swing and his legs torn off by the golden retriever-Labrador mix inside the family's mobile home on Sandpit Road, authorities said.
Aiden, who was born on Valentine's Day, was pronounced dead at a hospital.
Neighbors described the dog, named Lucky, as gentle, and they expressed shock. One investigator called the death one of the most gruesome he had seen in his career.
“This is about as bad as it can get for a police officer,” Dorchester County Sheriff L.C. Knight said at an afternoon news conference.
The boy's parents were questioned Friday afternoon, but no charges have been filed. Numerous state and local agencies are investigating, Knight said.
Knight said Aiden is a son of Quintin and Chantel McGrew, who are raising two other children. The other children, ages 7 and 3, were taken into custody by the state Department of Social Services after the 2-month-old's death.
Knight said Quintin McGrew was sleeping in a bed with the 3-year-old child and the family's other dog, and Chantel McGrew was taking the 7-year-old to a doctor's visit, when Aiden was attacked.
“The child was in a small swing and was asleep,” Knight said. “I'm not sure who put the child in the swing.”
Knight said the family adopted Lucky a few weeks ago, but their other dog has been with them for years. He said the McGrews “dog sat” for Lucky previously and decided to keep the dog when its previous owners wanted to give it up.
Knight said he knows of no prior complaints made about the dog, or any reports of aggressive behavior.
Asked why the boy's father apparently did not hear any commotion or awaken when the mauling took place in a nearby room, Knight said only that the matter is under investigation. The door to the room where the baby was apparently was open, he said.
Chantel McGrew told officials that she returned home just after 11 a.m. and found the infant on the floor by the swing with his legs torn off and his abdomen ruptured and bleeding.
The mother told 911 dispatchers that the father was asleep when she got home.
The boy was rushed by ambulance to Summerville Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.
Authorities said a helicopter was dispatched from Medical University Hospital, but plans to fly Aiden there were changed because of the boy's grave condition.
The Post and Courier's attempt to ask the child's mother about the incident were met by her landlord's demand to leave the property.
Shirley Pargiello, 70, a next-door neighbor, said the McGrews moved to the home just after Aiden was born. “I see them all the time coming home from the grocery store with the kids,” Pargiello said.
“They seem like a very nice couple and a nice family,” she said.
A Facebook page for Chantel McGrew depicts her and husband in loving embraces, and a photo of mom and Aiden is inscribed: “Best Valentines Day Present.”
Speaking about Lucky, Pargiello said she typically does not like dogs. “But it's a beautiful dog. I went over to say hi one day, and he came right up to me and stopped. I rubbed his head, then he left. It's a very gentle dog.”
Another next-door neighbor, who asked not to be identified, said the family's dogs “were never aggressive.”
Coroner Chris Nisbet said an autopsy planned for today will “hopefully be able to determine if the child died prior to the dismemberment.”
He called Friday “one of the saddest days” in his more than 20 years on the job.
“This is “one of the worst deaths I have ever handled. (A) beautiful little boy was bitten multiple times and dismembered ... while the mother was away and the father was sleeping,” he said.
Knight said that in addition to the sheriff's and coroner's offices, DSS, the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control and the 1st Circuit Solicitor's Office are investigating the tragedy.
The State Law Enforcement Division's Child Fatality Review Team has been notified of the death and will decide whether to join the investigation, Knight said.
DSS workers were seen escorting the two older McGrew children from the home and into a vehicle Friday as deputies finished their work at the scene.
An animal control officer caged the family's two dogs and a few chickens that the family also kept in this remote area east of Cottageville. Their fate wasn't immediately known.
Knight said the dogs did not act aggressively when they were corralled and transported. He expressed his conviction that large dogs and small children do not mix.
The McGrews' dogs were being held in the afternoon in pens at the county Law Enforcement Center near Summerville. When the pen was approached by reporters and photographers, Lucky wagged his tail and barked as if beckoning the visitors to come play.