South Carolina man found in pond died before alligator bite, authorities say

A South Carolina coroner ruled the man found dead in a pond with “bite marks” on his body over the weekend was not killed by an alligator, authorities said.

John Elias, 79, had died of natural causes before being discovered in the Kiawah Island pond near a large alligator, Charleston County Coroner Rae Wooten said in a news release.

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“This is an incredibly sad and tragic situation and our thoughts are with the Elias family as they grieve the loss of their loved one," said Wooten. "The results of the autopsy indicate that Mr. Elias died of natural causes prior to being found by the alligator. The injuries he sustained were post-mortem in nature.”

As part of Elias’ autopsy, the alligator was located and euthanized on Sunday so its digestive contents could be examined through a necropsy, the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources said in the release.

Elias had been reported missing early Saturday. Police dogs tracked the victim to the large pond behind his property and found the body after deploying a helicopter – just hours after he was last seen.

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The Charleston County Sheriff's Office had issued a statement at the time, saying: “The deceased individual had bite marks and wounds consistent in appearance with an alligator encounter." Police and the state’s Department of Natural Resources investigated the death.

There have been two known deaths in South Carolina resulting from an encounter with an alligator, the Post and Courier reported. Less than a year ago, a New York kindergarten teacher was walking her pet border collie near a lagoon when an alligator came out of the water and dragged her under.

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In July 2016, a 90-year-old woman with dementia died from gator wounds after wandering from an assisted-living facility and falling into a nearby pond, according to the paper.