Crime

York Co. teen died from alcohol poison, officials say. An adult is charged in her death

The York County woman accused of giving vodka to a teen who died from alcohol poisoning after Christmas has been charged with involuntary manslaughter, police said.

Kelly Nicole Hedrick, 28, turned herself in Monday morning at the Moss Justice Center in York, York County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Trent Faris said.

Shelby Brakefield, 16, died Dec. 27 after drinking alcohol with two friends at her family’s home between York and Rock Hill, York County Sheriff Kevin Tolson said. Brakefield was a junior at York Comprehensive High School.

Brakefield died from acute alcohol poisoning, said York County Coroner Sabrina Gast.

Police said Hedrick, an acquaintance of one of the teens, bought three bottles of vodka and gave it to the children.

The Brakefield family said in a statement to The Herald after Hedrick’s arrest Monday: “We are thankful that charges have been filed in Shelby’s death ... We want to shed light to those who are of legal age, why adults cannot provide alcohol to children and the consequences of those actions.”

An involuntary manslaughter conviction carries up to five years in prison. It is defined under South Carolina law as a death without malice but with a reckless disregard for the safety of others.

The arrest warrant against Hedrick states: “Hedrick displayed reckless disregard for the safety of Brakefield by providing alcoholic liquor for consumption which resulted in Brakefield’s death.”

“Once the investigation on our end was done, the solicitor’s office reviewed it and now she is charged with involuntary manslaughter, in addition to the other charges,” Faris said of Hedrick. “She supplied vodka to the three teenage girls. They drank it. Unfortunately, one of these girls died from what the coroner says is acute alcohol poisoning.”

Tolson said Brakefield’s death should remind adults they cannot provide alcohol to minors.

All deaths of people younger than age 18 in South Carolina are investigated by the State Law Enforcement Division as part of a statewide child fatality task force. York County also has a child fatality team made up of prosecutors, SLED, law enforcement, social services agents and coroner officials.

Hedrick was charged Dec. 28 with three counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor and transferring alcohol to minors. Those charges remain pending. She was released on $9,000 bond, court records show.

Hedrick was given a $10,000 bond after a court hearing later Monday. Her lawyer, 16th Circuit Chief Public Defender Harry Dest, said he went with Hedrick when she turned herself in Monday morning on the involuntary manslaughter charge.

Dest said Hedrick has followed conditions of her bond since her release in late December.

“She is not a flight risk and not a danger to the community,” Dest said. “She has fully complied with all conditions.”

Dest said his office is conducting its own investigation, including the potential legal consequences of the new manslaughter charge.

“We are looking into the details of the case and will mount a vigorous defense to these charges,” Dest said.

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Andrew Dys covers breaking news and public safety for The Herald, where he has been a reporter and columnist since 2000. He has won 51 South Carolina Press Association awards for his coverage of crime, race, justice, and people. He is author of the book “Slice of Dys” and his work is in the U.S. Library of Congress.
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