A York County prosecutor said in court Thursday that the South Carolina Department of Social Services “fell down on the job” when they allowed parents, both now charged in the killing of a Rock Hill toddler, to have custody of their son who allegedly was beaten to death.
The statement by 16th Circuit Willy Thompson came during a bond hearing for Lakeisha Jackson, charged with homicide by child neglect in the April death of her 2-year-old son, Miguel Williams. The boy allegedly was beaten to death by father Bruce Leroy Williams. He is charged with murder and homicide by child abuse.
Prosecutors said Jackson did not stop the violence and also failed to call 911 for medical help.
“She did nothing to stop it or get help,” Thompson said in court. “These two should not have had custody the day this happened.”
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Thompson, a prosecutor for 27 years, said Miguel’s injuries were “the most he had ever seen on one victim.”
The child had “dozens of injuries,” Thompson said, including broken ribs, facial injuries from punches, organ damage and internal bleeding.
Thompson said Jackson, 25, who was pregnant at the time, also was using drugs and alcohol. She has been in jail since the April death charged with three counts of child neglect and one count of homicide by child neglect.
Thompson and assistant solicitor Erin Joyner said in court that Jackson has been involved with DSS since the birth of her first child in 2011 when the child tested positive for drugs at birth. Jackson repeatedly refused to comply with court orders concerning her four children, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors said in court the parents “didn’t want DSS to take the kids” the day Miguel died.
Miguel tested positive for drugs at birth in 2016, and in another 2016 incident, he had two broken arms, Joyner said.
Jackson was found by a Family Court to have committed physical abuse against Miguel in 2017 when custody was given to father Bruce Williams, Joyner said in court.
However, Williams and Jackson were both in charge of the children in April the day Miguel was killed, prosecutors said. The parents had three of the children with them when Miguel was “beaten severely” in a Rock Hill motel room, prosecutors said. The parents initially told police Miguel had drowned in a bathtub, but an autopsy showed he was beaten to death.
Of Jackson, Thompson said she “was getting high” while her common-law husband Williams beat Miguel to death.
“This was neglect so severe - indifference to human life,” Thompson said. “She did nothing to stop it.”
Jackson’s fifth child was born last week and immediately taken into DSS custody. She said nothing in court Thursday as she sat in a chair during most of the hearing. She had a hysterectomy after the birth, her lawyer Geoff Dunn said.
Despite Jackson giving statements to police after the death of Miguel that she was present during the beating, Dunn said in court she “was not present.”
Dunn said Jackson has a right to bond, but prosecutors said Jackson has a history of running from court appearances during years of avoiding DSS.
“There is a danger she will try to take the other children and run,” Thompson said.
Circuit Judge William McKinnon said what happened to Miguel is “horrifying.”
“The court is shocked,” Mckinnon said.
Mckinnon denied bond, saying Jackson is a flight risk and danger to her other children.
“She has repeatedly disregarded DSS orders, she has fled to avoid DSS and obviously now she is facing up to life in prison on this charge,” McKinnon said. “She had repeatedly, from what the state alleges, gone out to see the children in violation over the past several years.”
Williams, the father, remains jailed without bond and could face the death penalty if convicted of murder.