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Litchfield shooting: Solicitor gets SLED report in shooting by deputy
By Charles Swenson
The 15th Circuit Solicitor’s office received a SLED report last week on the fatal shooting of a Litchfield woman by a Georgetown County Sheriff’s deputy, but it won’t be reviewed until the office completes a murder trial in Horry County.
“We do have the file. It hasn’t been reviewed due to the capital trial,” said Rebecca Stanley, an administrative assistant in the solicitor’s office. “It’s literally sitting on top of the pile.”
Solicitor Jimmy Richardson will review the report to determine if any criminal charges will be brought against the deputy in the death of Valerie Harrington. The sheriff’s office has not named the deputy, but recordings of transmissions between deputies and dispatchers show that it was Deputy Joseph Wilson who was sent to Harrington’s apartment at Litchfield Oaks on July 12 after Harrington’s mother called 911 to say her daughter was suicidal. According to the sheriff’s office, Harrington attacked the deputy with a knife. Wilson and two other deputies who were in the apartment at the time of the shooting were placed on administrative leave. The other deputies have since returned to duty.
The release of the report into the investigation by the State Law Enforcement Division once Richardson completes his review will be the first information that Harrington’s family has received, according to her attorney. “They want to know what happened,” Holly Wall said. “They have put their faith in SLED.”
Wall attended the funeral for Harrington in the northern Alabama town where she grew up. Wall learned from the funeral home that Harrington, 5-foot-5 and 110 pounds, had been shot seven times. “The family cannot imagine any justification for their daughter being shot seven times,” Wall said. “She was cut in half.”
Harrington, 36, moved to Litchfield in the spring after a divorce. She and her husband shared custody of their 3-year-old daughter, but her husband had gone to court to challenge the arrangement, Wall said. Harrington had also been fired from her job at International Paper in Georgetown days before her death.
“She was a brilliant woman with a genius IQ,” Wall said. Harrington was valedictorian of her high school class and earned an engineering degree from Auburn University. “She was very loyal, very intense and very funny.”
She stayed in the area after her divorce because she wanted to be with her daughter. “She was exploring her options,” Wall said. Then came the dispute over child custody and the loss of her job.
“She was very lonely. She was very isolated. She was sad and having a hard time dealing with the things that were going on,” Wall said.
But Wall said she wasn’t aware of any mental health problems in Harrington’s past other than going to counseling while she was going through her divorce.
She first learned that Harrington was threatening suicide from her paralegal, who had become friends with Harrington. Harrington’s mother, Reta Abbott, had been in Litchfield during the week, but left on Friday for Alabama. She planned to work on Saturday and return to Litchfield on Sunday. Abbott called 911 and was told a deputy would perform a welfare check.
Wall went to her office in Johnsonville to get Harrington’s file and wait to hear that she had been taken to the hospital for a mental health evaluation.
Harrington told the paralegal she was in the bathroom with a kitchen knife. She didn’t open the door to the apartment when deputies knocked. They got a key from a manager.
The paralegal sent Harrington a text message: “Valerie, open the door. They just want to help you.”
“The last thing Valerie said was OK,” Wall said.
She and Harrington’s family are awaiting the SLED report to find out what happened next.