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Autopsy: Brain defect, not school fight, killed fifth-grader

May 2, 2019
FILE - In this April 3, 2019 file photo, a horse-drawn caisson arrives outside Saints Center Ministries in Walterboro, S.C., for a celebration of the life 10-year-old Raniya Wright. Autopsy results released Thursday, May 2, 2019 support authorities’ assertion that natural causes stemming from a birth defect killed 10-year-old Raniya Wright, who collapsed after a fight at school. (Tracy Glantz/The State via AP, File)
FILE - In this April 3, 2019 file photo, a horse-drawn caisson arrives outside Saints Center Ministries in Walterboro, S.C., for a celebration of the life 10-year-old Raniya Wright. Autopsy results released Thursday, May 2, 2019 support authorities’ assertion that natural causes stemming from a birth defect killed 10-year-old Raniya Wright, who collapsed after a fight at school. (Tracy Glantz/The State via AP, File)

Autopsy results released Thursday support authorities’ assertion that natural causes stemming from a birth defect killed a 10-year-old South Carolina girl who collapsed after a fight at school.

The seven-page autopsy report says Raniya Wright died after a tangle of malformed blood vessels ruptured in her brain. Raniya died March 27, two days after she complained of a headache and collapsed following a fight with another girl in her fifth-grade class. But the autopsy found “no traumatic injuries” to her body.

“The manner of death is best deemed natural,” concluded the report dated April 22. It was released to reporters Thursday by the office of Solicitor Duffie Stone.

The autopsy backs up preliminary findings Stone cited during a news conference last month, when he announced that no charges would be filed in Raniya’s death.

He told reporters: “In this case, the science is clear.”

The girl’s family in Walterboro, South Carolina, has said the case deserves further investigation.

Margie Pizzaro, an attorney for the Wright family, said Thursday she had not seen the autopsy report and could not comment on its findings.

Colleton County Sheriff R.A. Strickland has described the fight at Forest Hills Elementary School as a “five-second slap fight” in Raniya’s classroom that was quickly broken up by a teacher.

But the accounts of several students who witnessed the fight, contained in the sheriff’s investigative report, say another girl held Raniya in a chokehold, punched her in the head and caused her to fall and strike her head on a shelf or cabinet. Some students also said it was Raniya who started the fight.

The girl’s medical records showed she had been to the doctor seven times in the past two years because of headaches. Her mother, Ashley Wright, has said she wasn’t aware of any birth defects or conditions that led to a blood vessel rupture until after Raniya was hospitalized right before her death.

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