Colleton girl's accused killers had multiple brushes with police amid rocky relationship

Rita Pangalangan [L], Larry King (Colleton County Detention Center).jpg
Rita Pangalangan [L], Larry King (Colleton County Detention Center)

Law enforcement records show a rocky on-again, off-again relationship between the two people accused of killing a special needs child this week in Colleton County.

Only months before Rita Pangalangan, 49, was arrested on a murder charge for the death of her 13-year-old disabled daughter, she was behind bars in Colleton County for another incident.

According to Walterboro Police, Pangalangan was jailed in January 2019 on a charge of malicious property damage involving vandalism to a man's truck.

The reported victim in that January incident was Larry E. King, Jr., Pangalangan's co-defendant in the investigation of her daughter's death.

Both King and Pangalangan were arrested Monday, August 5, on suspicion of murder after Cristina Pangalangan died following five hours left inside a vehicle outside King's home.

In fact, law enforcement records show Rita Pangalangan once lived with King at his Ruffin residence, but that was before King said the two ended their chaotic relationship in mid-2018.

After that break-up, Colleton County Sheriff's Office incident reports from June and July 2018 show deputies twice responded to King’s home to investigate claims that Pangalangan was harassing, intimidating and threatening him.

King told deputies Pangalangan came to his home once threatening to damage his belongings and property, and made similar threats over the phone on other occasions.

Pangalangan's alleged threats were in response to King talking to other women on Facebook after their breakup, King told deputies, adding that Pangalangan threatened to assault any woman she caught at his house.

King said he wanted the incidents documented because Pangalangan wasn't supposed to be on his property, and he took her threats seriously.

Deputies advised King to stop contacting Pangalangan after the June and July encounters. Then came the January 2019 incident that landed Pangalangan in jail.

King requested police come the night of January 18 to investigate damage to his truck in the parking lot of the Barrel House, a restaurant and bar in Walterboro.

King said when he was leaving the bar that night, he saw what appeared to be a Snickers candy bar lodged in the opening to his fuel tank, resulting in $500-$600 of damage.

King believed Pangalangan to be responsible given her past threats, and telling police she'd been following him and driving by his home to keep tabs on him following their break-up.

Walterboro Police investigated and eventually arrested Pangalangan on a charge of malicious property damage. She went before a judge in a bench trial in May, but was not convicted, a SLED background check shows.

The pair appears to have patched their fractured relationship in recent months. Neighbors said this week Pangalangan often would visit King's Low County Highway home, with her daughter Cristina in tow.

The Colleton County Sheriff's Office say that when she visited King Monday, August 5, Rita Pangalangan left Cristina alone outside in a vehicle for five hours after arriving, checking on her only three times in that span.

Deputies say the child's disability meant she was incapable of caring for herself while inside the vehicle.

Emergency personnel were called to King's home shortly before 5 p.m. August 5, after receiving a 9-1-1 call about a child not breathing.

Paramedics pronounced Cristina dead at the scene.

Authorities have refused to release Cristina's cause of death or further details surrounding the incident, citing an ongoing investigation.

Larry King and Rita Pangalangan remained in jail Wednesday at the Colleton County Detention Center, awaiting arraignment before a circuit court judge later this month.

The two were in court for an initial bond hearing Tuesday. Bail was not set.

The Colleton County Sheriff's Office continues to investigate the case, with assistance from the 14th Circuit Solicitor's Office.