HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) – The two suspects charged in connection with the death of a Horry County man who was reported missing last month appeared in court Thursday afternoon for a bond hearing.
Chris Dontell, 37, and Meagan Marie Jackson, 35, are each charged with murder and criminal conspiracy in the death of Gregory Vincent Rice.
Rice, 46, was first reported missing on Oct. 5, 2020. He was believed to have been heard from three days before, authorities said.
In the following days, multiple bloodhound searches were conducted, and search warrants served in an effort to locate Rice.
Rice’s body was later found along the Little Pee River near Pitts Landing off Highway 378 at the Horry/Marion County line on Nov. 8, Horry County police spokesperson Mikayla Moskov said.
The two suspects appeared separately before Judge Steven John. Jackson, who is the mother of four of Rice’s children, appeared first. During her appearance, it was noted that the children had been taken by the Department of Social Services and placed in the custody of her half-brother.
A $100,000 surety bond was granted for Jackson. John ordered GPS monitoring and home detention, and she can only leave for employment, medical attention, court appearances and to meet with her attorney.
John also ordered her to have no contact with her children unless directly supervised by the Department of Social Services. That arrangement cannot be changed except by order of the court, he added.
Prosecutors also revealed during the bond hearing that police searched Jackson’s home Thursday and found evidence to provide a warrant for four counts of child abuse.
Prosecutors said Jackson will have to go to court at a future date for those child abuse charges for another bond hearing.
During Dontell’s appearance, the prosecution stated that surveillance footage showed the defendant at a Lowes store pushing a shopping cart that had cement blocks, zip ties and a tarp inside of it.
Scott Hixson with the 15th Circuit Solicitor’s Office stated that same tarp was the one Rice’s body was discovered in.
John set a $125,000 surety bond for Dontell. The judge stated he is to have no contact with the victim’s family or the co-defendant and to remain on home detention.
The judge said he was setting bond for the two because he didn’t consider them a flight risk or a danger to the community due to their lack of criminal records.
Hixson also said Jackson worked as a subcontractor for the Horry County Coroner’s Office who transported bodies to funeral homes, which is how the relationship between Dontell and Jackson started.
Rice’s son Zach spoke during the bond hearing, asking the judge to deny bond for both Jackson and Dontell.
“Given the allegedly brutal and premeditated nature of my father’s murder, I believe both Meagan Jackson and Chris Dontell present an ongoing risk to the community,” he said. “I do not know Mr. Dontell, but he apparently conspired to murder my father, the father of Ms. Jackson’s children, children that he apparently knew. It’s hard to imagine a more depraved and destructive act.”
Dontell first joined the Horry County Coroner’s Office in July 2018 but has since been fired. John also ordered that he return all issued property, such as a badge and a police radio, to the coroner’s office.