One day removed from a tragedy and crime scene tape still serves as a reminder on the 300 block of Howle Avenue in James Island.
Charleston County detectives are still working to figure out exactly what happened, but officials say it started with some kind of a physical altercation between a 10-year-old child and his grandmother, 58-year-old Paula O’Neal. At some point in the incident, at least one knife was presented.
The child ran from the home to a nearby neighbor’s house looking for help. 911 calls capture what happened next and shed new light on the situation.
“A little boy who lives across the street came over and he says his grandmother was trying to kill him. He was cut on his neck and his wrist,” a neighbor explained to a Charleston County dispatch operator.
She said that she answered a knock on her front door to find the little boy soaked in blood. She said the child had cuts to his neck, wrist, back and underarms.
“He’s cut with a knife,” she explained.
“I wrapped his wrists up and I locked the door,” she continued.
“He said he got one knife from her and he threw it in the ditch,” she added.
Paula O’Neal would be found soon after.
“I heard some screams,” Cory Schwartz remembered. He lives in the same duplex as the family and was at home when the altercation happened.
“If I had a little more foresight maybe I could have done something to keep it from happening or got the paramedics there a little quicker. It just didn’t register to me something horrific was going on,” he said.
“I saw them everyday. They seem like nice people… It seemed like a pretty typical guardian-kid relationship. They seemed to get along most of the time. I heard some nagging… ‘do your homework’ and that kind of stuff,” he said.
As they wait for answers, Schwartz and the community rally around the O’Neal family.
“This is a serious and traumatic event for him… I hope that he gets the therapy and recovery that he needs,” he said.
According to Charleston County officials, as of Thursday afternoon, the child was still at a local hospital, but in the care of the Department of Social Services. DSS is also investigating this case. The child is not considered a suspect in the death at this time.
LISTEN: Raw 911 calls from the incident