UNION COUNTY — The year 2015 is over but the stories that began that year including a woman’s murder allegedly at the hands of family members and a child’s tragic death from drowning in a pool are continuing into 2016.
Crime is an undeniable fact of life and the people of Union County were repeatedly reminded of this in 2015 as local law enforcement agencies investigating crimes ranging from vandalism and theft to the the various aspects of the drug to crimes involving physical violence including attempted murder and murder.
In November, Union County Sheriff David Taylor and Union County Coroner William Holcombe issued a press release stating that their office’s and the State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) were investigating a suspicious death. Taylor and Holcombe stated that on Nov. 19 around 11:30 a.m. the Coroner’s Office had received a report of a dead boy at 1303 River Road, Union. The Coroner’s Office then contacted the Sheriff’s Office which dispatched deputies to the scene. After they arrived on the scene, the deputies determined that the death was suspicious in nature.
The victim was identified as the resident, Rebecca W. Tyler, 61. Taylor would later announce that Tyler had been shot three times including once in the brain, once in the heart, and once in the abdomen.
A little over a week after announcing the investigation, Taylor held a press conference on Dec. 1 in the Grand Jury Room of the Union County Courthouse to announce the arrest of two persons in connection with Rebecca Tyler’s death.
Those arrested were Ashley Tyler, 40, who Taylor said was charged with failure to register as a sex offender, possession of a weapon by a convicted felon, and murder; and Dabriada Alman, 40, who Taylor said was charged with transferring a weapon to a convicted felon and accessory after the fact of murder.
Ashley Tyler is the stepson and Dabriada Alman is the niece of Rebecca Tyler.
Taylor said when his office began investigating Rebecca Tyler’s death, investigators tried to contact Ashley Tyler but were unable to do so. Initially, Taylor said all investigators wanted to do was question Ashley Tyler about when he’d last seen and spoken with his stepmother. Taylor said investigators tried unsuccessfully for three days to located Ashley Tyler at his home at 2206 Lockhart Highway. He said that Ashley Tyler is a registered sex offender and is required by state law to notify law enforcement any time he changes his place of residence. As a result of investigators not being able to find Ashley Tyler at his home, Taylor said that Capt. James McNeil of the sheriff’s office obtained a warrant for Tyler’s arrest for failure to register as a sex offender.
Efforts to locate Ashley Tyler continued without success until Nov. 30 when Taylor said he got a phone call informing him that Tyler was at the residence of his daughter in Fountain Inn. Taylor said he contacted Laurens County Sheriff Ricky Chastain and asked for assistance in taking Ashley Tyler into custody. Tyler was taken into custody that afternoon by Laurens County deputies who kept him in custody until Taylor and two deputies arrived to take him back to Union County.
While Ashley Tyler was taken into custody, Dabriada Alman, who Taylor said was Tyler’s girlfriend, was not initially arrested, but was asked to come back to Union County for questioning. Taylor said she did so and was questioned by investigators along with Tyler. He said that Alman was then arrested and she and Tyler were both subsequently charged with Rebecca Tyler’s death.
In discussing the charged filed against the pair, Taylor said the weapons charges stem from the fact that, as a convicted felon, Tyler is not permitted to possess firearms. Taylor said that Alman provided Tyler with the gun he used to shoot Rebecca Tyler. He said that the gun used in the shooting had been recovered.
Taylor declined to give a motive for the killing of Rebecca Tyler beyond saying that robbery was not involved and there was no sign of forced entry to her home. He also declined to give further details as the investigation was continuing.
A littler over two weeks later, the investigation into Rebecca Tyler’s murder resulted in the arrest of a third member of her family.
In a statement released Dec. 16, Taylor announced the arrest of Timothy Jay Tyler, 34, on the charge of delivery of a pistol to a convicted felon. Taylor said that Timothy Tyler, a stepson of Rebecca Tyler, had provided Ashley Tyler with a Tanfoglio GT32 automatic pistol through Dabriada Alman. He said that the gun was the one that had been used to kill Rebecca Tyler.
Taylor said that Timothy Tyler was also charged with two additional counts of delivery of a pistol to a convicted felon. He said that in those instances Timothy Tyler provided Ashley Tyler with a Smith & Wesson .357 Magnum and a Smith & Wesson Model 686.
Shortly after they were arrested, Ashley Tyler and Dabriada Alman both went before Union County Magistrate Jeff Bailey for a bond hearing. Bailey denied bond on all charged for both Tyler and Alman and set their initial court appearance for Jan. 26 and their appearance in General Sessions Court for Feb. 1.
Timothy Tyler, however, was granted a $6,000 personal recognizance bond by Magistrate Whitney Smith. With the personal recognizance bond, Tyler was allowed to sign himself out of jail.
Personal recognizance bonds are issued to individuals who are not considered a danger to the community and/or a flight risk and will show up for their scheduled court date. Tyler is also scheduled to appear in General Sessions Court on Feb. 1.
While her first appearance in court is Jan. 26, Alman was in the Main Room of the Union County Courthouse this past Thursday, asking Judge John C. Hayes III to be released on bond.
Alman, who cried during much of the hearing, was represented by Public Defender Jennifer Williams who pointed out that her client had prior criminal record, has only a 9th grade education, and has limited means, having been on disability since 1998. Williams described Alman as very emotional and suffering from manic depression and is grieving over her aunt’s death. She said that Alman can’t believe what is happening, does not understand the legal system, and is very scared.
Williams said that Alman got into relationship with Ashley Tyler, a relationship in which she was taken advantage of. She said she did not feel Alman would do anything illegal if released on bond.
Assistant Solicitor John C. Anthony, however, argued that Alman should not be given bond, pointing out that she had driven Ashley Tyler to Rebecca Tyler’s home at the time of the killing and then picked him up afterwards. He pointed out that the accessory after the fact of murder charge against Alman stems from the fact that she learned about her aunt’s death Ashley Tyler had killed her.
Taylor was also present at the hearing and told Hayes that he was there in support of the fact presented by Anthony. He said that his office is also opposed to Alman being released on bond.
Hayes did not rule on the request for bond but instead said he would take it under advisement.
There is no greater tragedy than the death of an innocent child and Union County experienced such a tragedy in 2015.
Summer is a time for swimming pools and in July the swimming pool at the Union County YMCA is a popular place to cool off and have fun in the water. On July 22, that innocent fun came to sudden and tragic stop when lifeguards pulled a little from the water and began performing CPR on her. An incident report by the Union Public Safety Department states that the Union County EMS was also called to the scene where paramedics began administering medical treatment. EMS then transported the child to Wallace Thomson Hospital (Union Medical Center) emergency room. All attempts to resuscitate the child proven unsuccessful and she was pronounced dead at the hospital.
The child was identified by Union County Coroner William Holcombe as Miracle Smith. The child was seven years old when she died.
In a statement announcing the child’s death and the investigation by the Coroner’s Office, the Public Safety Department, and SLED, Holcombe stated that Miracle had been at the pool with a group from the Union Housing Authority. He stated that while the incident was under investigation, there was no indication of foul play.
YMCA Director Scott Sandor also issued a statement about the incident, pointing out that the lifeguards had immediately provided care and called 911. Sandor said that the YMCA was cooperating with law enforcement in its investigation and was conducting an investigation of its own. He pointed out that the YMCA is constantly reviewing its policies and procedures in an effort to improve safety and that based on the outcomes of the investigations would further examine those policies and procedures and act accordingly.
Miracle was a student at Foster Park Elementary School and the school held a fundraiser for her family the Saturday following her death. The school also encouraged everyone to wear pink that day in honor of Miracle’s memory. The school also announced that an account called the Miracle Smith Fund had been set up at Arthur State Bank with all monies to be used to help Miracle’s family with funeral expenses.
After the fundraiser, Miracle’s family held a balloon release at Foster Park. All the balloons were pink, Miracle’s favorite color.
In the aftermath of Miracle’s death, South Carolina DHEC came to the YMCA to check operations, equipment and water sanitation. Sandor said a SLED investigation showed the facility’s operating standards were met and exceeded. Although the pool was immediately cleared for reopening, the YMCA staff decided to wait until July 30 in order to prepare themselves and regroup after the traumatic event.
In announcing the reopening of the pool, Sandor also announced added safety precautions that had been put in place including the pool being closed for 10 minutes at the top of each hour of preparation. This would be from five minutes to the hour until five minutes after the hour. He said the YMCA would also use the “test, mark, protect” system for enhanced pool safety:
All participants under the age of 14 will be required to pass a swim test in order to use the entire pool area. The swim test will consist of swimming the length of the pool (25 yards) without touching the bottom of the pool and maintaining at least a 45-degree angle; treading water for 30 seconds while keeping ears and face above water; and plunging into water above head level and easily returning to the surface.
Swimmers who pass the swim test will be given a bright yellow wristband to indicate they have passed the swim test. The YMCA will institute a tracking system, so swimmers do not have to repeatedly take the swim test.
Non-swimmers who do not meet height requirements must wear a U.S. Coast Guard approved life vest. Non-swimmers under the age of 10 must be within arm’s length of their responsible adult, and one adult can be responsible for no more than three children. Lastly, any participant who is deemed to be exhibiting unsafe swimming practices may be asked to perform a swim test at the lifeguard’s discretion. Failure to comply with any of the lifeguards’ instructions can result in revocation of pool privileges.
Sandor also said the YMCA will track the number of saves made in the future, as people are assisted to safety each year. Lifeguard training comes through the YMCA or the American Red Cross. Lifeguards’ level of CPR training (professional rescuer CPR) is more extensive than “layperson CPR” or “cardiac arrest CPR” but less than an EMT.
Prior to the pool’s opening, however, Sandor and other members of the YMCA staff, four members of the clergy, and members of the public came together for a short prayer service at the pool. After a few remarks by Sandor and the reading of scripture and remarks by some of the clergymen present, the approximately two dozen people participating joined hands and formed a prayer circle, bowed their heads and prayed.
After the prayer service, Sandor said it was felt that prayers were needed to help the YMCA and the community move forward from this tragedy.
“We just felt it was important for the community, for the YMCA as an organization, for our people who were very close to this tragedy to come together and bless the pool,” Sandor said. “We want to continue to serve the community at a high level and we felt this was an important piece in moving forward.”
Charles Warner can be reached at 864-762-4090 or firstname.lastname@example.org.