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Crime: Suicidal woman with knife shot by deputy
By Charles Swenson
Valerie Harrington recently changed her profile photo on Facebook. A friend asked about the image of the animal baring its teeth. “It’s a honey badger,” she told the friend. “Look it up.”
She did. “Then I realized why. This animal is the most tenacious of the animal kingdom,” the friend wrote.
There will be no more updates. Harrington was shot and killed Saturday in her Litichfield apartment by a Georgetown County sheriff’s deputy who said she attacked him with a knife. The State Law Enforcement Division is investigating.
“The investigation is open and ongoing,” said Thom Berry, a SLED spokesman. “That’s the extent of any comment we make.”
The sheriff’s office did not name the deputy, but said he was on administrative leave. “There was more than one officer in and around the location, so any release by this agency at this time would not be based on factual findings founded by an impartial party,” said Carrie Cuthbertson, spokeswoman for the sheriff’s office.
The report of the incident was written by the shift sergeant, Angela Carter. Deputies went to Harrington’s apartment in Litchfield Oaks around 5 p.m. on Saturday after a family member called to say she may be suicidal. They knocked, but got no answer so they got a key from the manager.
Carter said deputies also got a call from Harrington’s attorney saying “he was in contact with Ms. Harrington and she was locked inside the bathroom with a knife threatening to harm herself.”
While deputies were searching the apartment, Harrington, 5-foot-5 and 110 pounds, “charged at a deputy with a knife in her hand,” according to Carter’s report. The deputy shot her.
Harrington was taken by ambulance to Waccamaw Community Hospital, where she was pronounced dead. She was shot “multiple times,” Georgetown County Coroner Kenny Johnson said. She was 36.
Court records say Harrington worked for International Paper, but her Facebook page says she was unemployed and studying for an MBA through Webster University.
“The family of Valerie Harrington is understandably devastated by the events of July 12,” said Holly Wall, an attorney in Johnsonville, in a prepared statement. “The family is trying to deal with their grief and awaiting the investigative report from the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division to reveal the truth of the events that occurred.”
Wall represented Harrington in her divorce earlier this year. She did not say whether she was the attorney who contacted the sheriff’s office. The incident report referred to that attorney as a man. Two weeks before her death, Harrington was arrested by the sheriff’s office on a complaint by her ex-husband that she was sending him harassing text messages.
The ex, who lives in Andrews, showed the messages to a deputy, who said they contained “derogatory words and remarks.” She was trying to set up dates to collect her belongings and talk to their 3-year-old daughter.
The father said “he felt it unsafe for his child to go back to Ms. Harrington, as he thinks she may be drinking or involved with medication,” according to the deputy, who referred the man to Family Court. The father wanted to press charges. He said he knew Harrington lived in Litchfield, but didn’t know the address.
The deputy also spoke with Harrington, who said she only sent messages concerning her child. He told her not to send excessive messages and to work out any issues through the court.
The couple married in November 2010 and separated in December 2012, according to court records. They lived in the house Harrington, then Valerie Henson, bought in Andrews in 2007. She deeded the house to her husband as part of the divorce settlement.
The couple had joint custody of their daughter. Harrington’s family “ask for your prayers for themselves and prayers for their granddaughter,” Wall said.
There is no timetable for the SLED investigation. “Each case is going to be different,” Berry said.