Richland County mom faces homicide charge in death of her son

jmonk@thestate.comMay 20, 2014 

Charges against a 28-year-old Columbia mother charged earlier in connection with her baby’s death for allegedly not attaching a heart monitor to the child have been upgraded to homicide by child abuse/neglect, the Richland County Sheriff’s Department said.

Jennifer Coles turned herself in to authorities Monday, was transported to the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center and remained there Tuesday night. No bail had yet been set.

The charge of homicide by child abuse carries a sentence of 20 years to life.

Coles previously had been charged with unlawful conduct toward a child. But the charge was upgraded after investigators determined there is evidence that the child’s death was a result of “sheer neglect,” sheriff’s spokesman Chris Cowan said.

The investigation found that not only was the infant not wearing his doctor-prescribed heart monitor at the time of his death, but he had also not been given prescribed medicine necessary to live, the sheriff’s department said.

Coles was already facing a felony charge of unlawful conduct toward a child in the death of her 5-month-old son, Bryson Webb. He died April 22 in the back seat of his mother’s car in a Family Dollar store parking lot on Broad River Road.

A heart-monitoring device he was supposed to wear each day to alert people when he was struggling to breathe was in the car’s trunk, Coroner Gary Watts said when he and Sheriff Leon Lott announced Coles’ first arrest April 30.

Doctors had made it clear to Coles that Bryson must wear the device at all times, Lott and Watts said. However, the device was rarely attached to Bryson, they added.

Lott and Watts also criticized the S.C. Department of Social Services and said the agency had been notified that Coles was not using the monitor. That agency is supposed to look out for the welfare of children in danger.

DSS officials said they couldn’t locate Coles. DSS has since announced it will now require workers to get in touch with law enforcement within 72 hours if DSS can’t locate a family or child.

Staff writer Sarah Ellis contributed. Reach Monk at (803) 771-8344.

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