Meagan Jackson and Chris Dontell

Christopher Allen Dontell, 37, of Conway (right) and Meagan Marie Jackson, 35, are charged with murder. Dontell was fired from the Horry County Coroner's Office.

Judge Steven John on Thursday set bond for former Horry County Deputy Coroner Chris Dontell and Meagan Jackson.

Dontell's was set at $125,000. Jackson's was set at $100,000. Both are surety bonds.

Dontell and Jackson are charged with murder in the death of Gregory Vincent Rice, who had been reported missing. His body was found on Nov. 8. Dontell had worked as a deputy coroner from 2018 until last week.

Police said Jackson and Rice have multiple children in common.

One of those children, Zachary Rice, spoke before the judge Thursday asking that bond be denied.

"Given the allegedly brutal and premeditated nature of my father's murder, I believe that Mr. Dontell and Meagan Jackson are a high risk to the community," Rice said.

Jackson did not look at Rice as he read his statement for the court.

Judge John ordered GPS monitoring and home detention for Jackson and Dontell if they post bond. 

Arrest warrants state that Jackson and Dontell each “act[ed] in concert with others with malice aforethought to murder the victim.”

“The defendant and others did conspire to kill the victim and the victim did die as a result of their actions,” each warrant states. “Evidence produced by the investigation includes forensic, physical and, [sic] digital evidence, as well as witness statements corroborating said evidence.”

Police haven't offered any other specific details.

Rice was reported missing Oct. 5. He was last heard from three days earlier.

Crews conducted bloodhound searches and law enforcement served multiple search warrants in the effort to find him.  

Horry County police coordinated searches with other local agencies and the CUE Center for Missing Persons. They tracked the victim’s cellphone location and conducted interviews with people who knew him.

On Sunday, Nov. 8, Rice’s body was recovered in the early morning hours along the Little Pee Dee River at the Horry County-Marion County border.

Police said the recovery happened near Pitts Landing off U.S. 378. An autopsy was then performed at the Medical University of South Carolina.

In a statement, Horry County Coroner Robert Edge said that Horry County Police on Oct. 5 briefed Chief Deputy Coroner Tamara Willard was briefed on Rice’s disappearance.

Police told Willard that Dontell would be questioned during to the investigation. 

The coroner’s office allowed police to examine Dontell’s county phone and county vehicle, Edge wrote.

On Oct. 23, the HCPD informed Dontell he was under investigation in connection to Rice’s disappearance.

Dontell was suspended from the coroner’s office, denied access to all county property and removed from the coroner’s call schedule. On Monday, he was fired.

In his statement, Edge referred all questions to the HCPD. The release said both the HCPD and coroner’s office would not be conducting interviews about the case.

Police continue to investigate and expect to file additional charges. Anyone with information about this case is asked to call the HCPD’s tip line at 843-915-8477.


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