SC man was not killed by the alligator that bit him, but it was put down, officials say

The South Carolina man whose body was found in a pond after being bitten by an alligator was not killed in an attack, the Charleston County coroner said.

An autopsy showed 79-year-old John Elias “died of natural causes prior to being found by the alligator,” Coroner Rae Wooten said Tuesday in a news release from the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, or SCDNR.

Elias’ injuries happened after he died, Wooten said in the release.

The large gator that bit Elias was captured and killed, according to SCDNR, and an examination of the alligator’s digestive tract was used in the autopsy.

“It’s a very sad situation,’‘ Kiawah Island resident Wendy Kramer Kulick said of the incident that sparked plenty of talk from concerned residents over the weekend. “A lot of people have been saying how horrible, how could this happen?”

Elias was doing yard work by the lake behind his house when he went missing Saturday, according to an incident report.

His wife said the last time she saw him was about 10 a.m. at their home on Kiawah Island, according to the report.

The Charleston County Sheriff’s Office said it got the missing person call at about 2 p.m. and it found the man’s body with suspected gator bites soon after.

“The deceased individual had bite marks and wounds consistent in appearance with an alligator encounter,” the Sheriff’s Office said in the release.

The pond where Elias’ body was found is near his home on Kiawah Island Club Drive, SCDNR said.

It began searching for an alligator that was known to live in the pond and found it on Sunday afternoon, according to the news release.

Staff writer Sammy Fretwell contributed to this report.

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Noah Feit is a Real Time reporter with The State focused on breaking news, public safety and trending news. The award-winning journalist has worked for multiple newspapers since starting his career in 1999.