WEDGEFIELD, SC — A teenaged mother and a 20-year-old father stand accused of inflicting a severe brain injury on their own infant daughter.
Early Friday morning, sheriff's deputies arrested Christopher McFadden Jr., 20, and Brittany Nicole Shapley, 18, of 1340 Cricket Drive, Wedgefield, with unlawful conduct toward a child and criminal conspiracy.
The arrests come almost exactly a month after a badly injured six-month-old girl was taken to Tuomey Regional Medical Center. When medical staff realized the extent of the girl's injuries on Sept. 6, she was transferred to Palmetto Health Richland in Columbia, where she was diagnosed with swelling on the brain, as well as several cracked or broken ribs.
The Sumter County Sheriff's Office was called in when doctors decided the brain injury is the result of "non-accidental" suffocation.
Medical personnel say the damage to the child's brain is likely permanent.
What followed was a month-long investigation that led to McFadden and Shapley being taken into custody around 4 a.m. Friday, shortly after the arrest warrants were issued.
"We had to wait on some information related to the charges, medical information on the child's injuries," said Sheriff Anthony Dennis.
Both were being held awaiting bond Friday at Sumter-Lee Regional Detention Center.
Dennis said investigators have spent the past few weeks investigating anyone who might have had contact with the girl to rule out any other suspects who might have inflicted the injuries on the girl, until they narrowed their aim to the parents. "We interviewed all the people who had custody; a grandfather, two aunts, people who might have had the child a day at a time," Dennis said.
Still, the investigation into the case is ongoing, and Dennis didn't rule out other charges being filed in the future. The sheriff's office is also still trying to determine exactly how the child was injured. While warrants estimate the worst injuries occurred to the girl on Sept. 4 or Sept. 5 just prior to her being taken to the hospital, investigators don't yet know how the child was suffocated or why the parents would have abused their daughter in such a way. The only determination the sheriff said had been made is that the injuries "could not be self-inflicted."
In addition to the unlawful conduct charges against the two, McFadden and Shapley also face a conspiracy charge related to the amount of time between when the girl was injured and when she was finally taken to a doctor, possibly as long as two days. Warrants allege the couple "deliberately avoid(ed) medical treatment...after being aware the child was seriously injured."
The baby has now been discharged from Palmetto Richland and is in the custody of the Department of Social Services, but is still being monitored to determine the extent of the brain damage she suffered.
"There might be other serious charges filed if she takes a turn for the worse," Dennis said.