COLUMBIA, S. C. – An 11-month-old baby found dead in a plastic bag in a diaper box, in a field full of briars in South Carolina, may have died of natural causes, an emotional sheriff said Thursday as he tried to balance his feelings for the baby with his oath to justice.
The mother of the child in the first instance, said the stranger knocked her unconscious and stole the child from her arms, when she checked the mail. But by the time an Amber Alert for the baby buzzed on mobile phones about the state of the Tuesday, detectives let Breanna Lewis a picture of the diaper box, Chesterfield County Sheriff Jay brooks said.
“She denied knowing where the baby was until we took a picture of that diaper box and showed it to her, and then she began to tell the story,” Brooks said at a press conference on Thursday.
Lewis, 19, is currently charged with filing a false report, and improper disposal of human remains. The sheriff is awaiting a coroner’s autopsy before deciding whether other charges should be filed. The prison officials did not know whether she had a lawyer.
The sheriff speculated that it is possible Harlee Lewis suffocated while sleeping in a crib full of blankets and toys, or died of other natural causes. He said her mother, who seems to have mental issues and told the deputies she blacks out when it is under pressure, in panic.
“I can’t promise you we’ll bring her with murder,” the sheriff said. “Everyone on Facebook wants us to hang her from a flagpole, but that might not happen.”
The baby was last alive seen Tuesday morning when Lewis’ girlfriend went to work, Brooks said, and Lewis 911 about seven hours later.
Brooks seemed on the verge of tears several times in his press conference. He spoke about how his deputies ran in ever-larger circles in the stifling midday heat around a field filled with dead trees, thick weeds and briars, so thick and sharp it would be your clothes off, walk away.”
Finally, some 1000 yards (914 metres) of the baby’s Chesterfield home, they saw the clear box is not faded by the sun or rain. The baby was stuffed in a garbage bag.
“How do you put a dead child in a garbage bag and throw it away?” Brooks said.
Deputies initially believed Breanna Lewis’ story. She was hysterical, and had a swollen face and a black eye, as she was attacked. She is in a custody dispute with the family of the father of the child, who was killed in front of them in October last year, the sheriff said.
But the more Lewis told her story, the less sense it made. “Every time she told it, it began to unravel. It was different,” the sheriff said. It turned out that her face been injured in a car accident, a few days before.
Bond on all charges was set at $71,000. Brooks said that he will work with prosecutors to quickly get a mental exam if it looks like Lewis is going to get out of prison, “but unless I miss my guess, I don’t think they can come up with $71 quickly.”
The sheriff is getting guidance for the delegates to the baby and any other officers who need it. After more than 40 years in the enforcement of the law, he says that he knows all too well how a dead child the face, never leave a officer of the spirit.
“If you’re as old as I am and you have a hundred, it makes sleep a challenge,” says sara.
The sheriff also encouraged in his county 46,000 to come together to give Harlee the peace in death they did not enjoy in her short life.
“Let’s make this child a decent funeral,” says sara. “I’m not sure how decent she was alive.”
Follow Jeffrey Collins on Twitter . See his work on apnews.com