A Lancaster woman accused of beating her boyfriend’s daughter to death will be released from jail before trial because she has cancer, a judge ruled Thursday.
Kayla Cook, 26, was the live-in girlfriend of the father of Lillian Schroeder, 3. Lillian died in December 2017 from head injuries while Cook was the toddler’s babysitter, said 6th Circuit Solicitor Randy Newman.
Newman said Cook killed Lillian through a series of beatings and injuries that included a broken arm and internal bleeding.
“Lillian’s body was covered with bruises on her head, face, torso and limbs,” Newman said. “This was several blows.”
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Cook is charged with homicide by child abuse and has been in jail since her arrest 11 days after Lillian died. Cook was in court Thursday on a bond hearing because she has lymph cancer and wants to be released for treatment.
Cook did not speak in court and had to sit during the hearing because of her illness. She wore bandages on her head from recent cancer surgery for removal of a tumor that her lawyer said was the size of an apple.
Cook now requires six weeks of daily radiation treatment, her lawyer Ross Burton said.
“If she doesn’t get the treatment, she’s gonna die,” Burton said.
Burton said he intends to fight the homicide charge against Cook, and a trial is planned for April or May. Cook faces 20 years in prison to life if convicted.
Newman and Lancaster County Sheriff Barry Faile said Cook can get the treatment she needs while a jail inmate.
Family members of Lillian’s father, one calling Cook a “monster,” opposed bond.
Cook was arrested in North Carolina days after the child’s death after she received mental health treatment, court testimony showed Thursday. After the treatment she did not return to Lancaster and was arrested in Cleveland County, N.C., Newman said.
“She already showed that she is a flight risk,” Newman said in court. “And she is a danger to the community. She was certainly a danger to Lillian Schroeder that day.”
Circuit Court Judge Brian Gibbons granted a $50,000 bond to Cook that includes house arrest, GPS monitoring and no unsupervised contact with any children. Cook has two biological children who she is barred from seeing because of her arrest order.
Gibbons said Cook is not a flight risk because of her illness and needs to continue treatment at the Medical University of South Carolina near Charleston. He also said Cook is presumed innocent.
“The presumption of innocence trumps everything here,” Gibbons said.