Coroner says hit-and-run victim died of heart attack prior to incident

rcottingham@theitem.comNovember 5, 2013 

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A 62-year-old woman initially thought to be the victim of a Warren Street hit and run on Friday night died before the incident.

According to Sumter County Coroner Harvin Bullock, Doretta Bradham Johnson of Columbia died from a heart attack before being struck by a vehicle about 8:30 p.m. Friday.

"From what the autopsy shows us, Ms. Johnson died from myocardial infarction," Bullock said. "We originally thought the cause of death would be blunt force trauma, but it just wasn't the case this time."

Bullock said the evidence from the autopsy indicated the victim didn't die long before her body was struck by the vehicle near the intersection of Warren Court and Warren Street.

"From what we can tell, she died shortly before she was struck," he said. "But we definitely know it was a heart attack given the lack of blood from the incident."

Bullock explained that, while the body suffered several broken bones, there was very little blood at the scene because the heart had stopped beating. The hit and run is still being investigated, however.

"The hit and run is part of the incident as a whole, so we're still looking into that and following any leads we can," Bullock said.

Johnson was apparently a frequent visitor to Sumter who has family in the area. Her closest relatives identified by the Sumter County Coroner's Office are an aunt and uncle who reside in Manning.

A possible eye witness said he was leaving a nearby ATM when he saw what looked like a dark Pontiac Grand Prix strike the victim while she was in the roadway. The suspect then reportedly continued to travel west on Warren Street toward Broad Street, ultimately leaving the scene.

Police did not release any new information Monday, but officials said officers are continuing to investigate the incident.

Law enforcement advise the public to be on the lookout for a dark-colored, mid-sized car they think might now have damage to its front end.

Anyone with information on this incident is asked to contact the Sumter Police Department at (803) 436-2700 or Crime Stoppers at 1-888-CRIME-SC (274-6372). Callers can remain anonymous and may be eligible for a cash reward.

Reach Rob Cottingham at (803) 774-1225.

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