Investigation continues into death of 3-month-old baby in Rock Hill

December 5, 2013 

Ja'Leyah White with Santa days before she died. Oak Hollow apartments in Rock Hill is collecting money to help with burial costs.

THE ROCK HILL HERALD — Courtesy Darlene Smith


The Herald (Rock Hill, S.C.)

Dec. 05–Police and coroner officials continued investigating Wednesday the circumstances leading to this week’s death of a 3-month-old baby at Oak Hollow Apartments in Rock Hill, while other apartment residents and friends of the child’s mother who survived a July jump from a burning building while pregnant with the baby are collecting money to pay for the infant’s funeral.

Ja'Leyah White, born Sept. 2, died after she was found unresponsive Monday night after sleeping in the same bed with her father, according to police.

DSS investigators are conducting a separate investigation from the police detectives, said Executive Officer Mark Bollingerof the Rock Hill Police Department.

DSS spokesperson Marilyn Matheus declined to confirm the DSS investigation or comment on agency involvement with the family, citing confidentiality guidelines.

Rock Hill detectives are still interviewing people connected to the case, and toxicology tests remain pending along with autopsy results, said Bollinger.

“Infant deaths are complex,” Bollinger said. “It can be a long process.”

Although the autopsy was done late Tuesday, no results are available and may not be for days or weeks, said York County Coroner Sabrina Gast. A cause of death remains unclear, Gast said Wednesday.

The York County Child Death Review Team made up of police, coroner’s officials, social services agents and forensics technicians is set to meet next week about the case, Gast said.

Ja'Leyah’s mother, Mandi Coley, who had to leap from the second floor of her Oak Hollow apartment in July during a fire, found Ja'Leyah after coming home from work just before midnight Monday. She told police she was unable to get the baby’s father, Samuel Lee White, to open the door and had to climb in the window. She attempted CPR on the child and called 911. White told police he and the baby fell asleep in the bed around 7 p.m., according to a police report.

Coley works two jobs – at Bojangle’s and Walmart. She had just finished a 16-hour double shift when she came home to find her daughter dead Monday.

“Mandi tried so hard to be a good mother and she works so hard – two jobs – to take care of that baby,” said India Blanding, a co-worker of Coley’s at Bojangle’s and godmother to Ja'Leyah. “We all want to help any way we can.”

The apartment complex office is collecting donations that will help pay for the funeral costs that could be thousands of dollars.

“Mandi was already working two jobs to make it – she sure doesn’t have the money to bury that sweet child,” Blanding said.

Neither Coley nor White could be reached Wednesday.

Coley had moved into another unit at Oak Hollow after the building she lived in was destroyed by the July fire. Darlene Smith, manager of Oak Hollow, said that residents loved baby Ja'Leyah and are mourning her death. Residents and Smith agreed Wednesday to collect donations.

“She was a beautiful baby and we all just adored her,” Smith said of Ja'Leyah. “She just went and sat on Santa’s lap.”

A picture of Ja'Leyah with Santa taken just days before she died is being circulated on fliers around the complex and neighborhood. Many residents remain upset that the baby died and want answers about what happened.

“There is no reason that that baby had to die,” said neighbor Marcus Jennings. “Everybody out here is mad.”

Andrew Dys – 803-329-4065 ––– ©2013 The Herald (Rock Hill, S.C.) Visit The Herald (Rock Hill, S.C.) at Distributed by MCT Information Services AMX-2013-12-05T12:19:00-05:00

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