Sumter sheriff: Family won’t be charged in toddler’s drowning

bmarchant@theitem.comNovember 16, 2013 

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— No charges will be filed against the relatives of a 2-year-old boy who drowned in Dubose Pond off U.S. 15 North Monday.

Following an investigation by the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office of the toddler’s death, Third Circuit Solicitor Ernest “Chip” Finney III ruled out criminal charges in a letter to the sheriff Friday.

“We have reviewed the report filed by the investigators as well as photographs taken at the scene,” the letter reads in part. “Although tragic, this matter does not meet the requirement of criminal intent necessary to prosecute in the court of general sessions.”

Byron Barr of Rock Hill was visiting his grandparents in Sumter during Veterans Day weekend when the toddler apparently left their Buckingham Boulevard home Monday and wandered into the pond.

The child’s grandparents as well as an aunt and uncle were present when they noticed the boy missing about 1 p.m. Sheriff’s deputies responded and within about 30 minutes located the boy in the pond 200 yards away. Attempts to revive him at the scene were unsuccessful.

Finney said the relative speed with which the tragedy unfolded didn’t allow for any of the toddler’s guardians to be labeled criminally negligent.

“If this had been a situation where the child had been out of the house longer or gone farther, you could say there was a failure to regulate the child,” the solicitor said.

But the information uncovered by the investigation was ultimately not enough to go to court.

Sheriff Anthony Dennis likewise doesn’t think any crime occurred in the child’s death.

“I agree with him,” Dennis said of Finney’s decision. “An accident was the cause of death, based on our investigation.”

Investigators and forensics experts collected and pored over evidence from the scene with assistance from the State Law Enforcement Division, and all the adults present were interviewed. An autopsy report from the coroner’s office also ruled out foul play, labeling the death an accidental drowning.

“If there had been any evidence of abuse, or of drugging the child or beating, we would have prosecuted the case vigorously,” Finney said. “But this child just got into a dangerous situation.”

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