Crime

Lancaster mom charged with homicide by child abuse in 2013 death of daughter, 5

April Victoria Gleason
April Victoria Gleason Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office

A Lancaster mother was charged with homicide by child abuse Tuesday – almost three years to the day after her daughter was allegedly bludgeoned to death and her boyfriend who is now her husband was also charged in the crime, according to police and jail officials.

April Victoria Gleason, formerly April Snipes, 30, was charged Tuesday with aiding and abetting homicide by child abuse and two counts of unlawful conduct toward a child in the killing of Soren Victoria Chilson, according to Lancaster County deputies, prosecutors and jail officials.

April Gleason could face as much as 40 years in prison if convicted. She was denied bond Tuesday afternoon during her first court appearance.

Both April Gleason and her husband, Phillip Bryan Gleason, are jailed at the Lancaster County Detention Center after police charged Phillip Gleason on Tuesday with two more counts of unlawful conduct toward a child.

It is unclear what new information came to light that pushed police to not just add neglect charges to Phillip Gleason, but also charge Soren’s mother with homicide as being part of the alleged brutality of child abuse that led to her death.

Soren, 5, died after her skull was smashed March 5, 2013, police and prosecutors have said in previous court hearings. April Gleason’s former boyfriend, whom she married on Jan. 23, 2014, Phillip Gleason, was charged after the crime with homicide by child abuse and has been out on $150,000 bond for three years pending trial.

During a 2013 court hearing, April Gleason was said to have been at work at the time Soren was found, with Phillip Gleason watching the child. Soren’s father is deceased.

Phillip Gleason, 30, was also charged Tuesday with two counts of unlawful neglect of a child in connection to the case, said 6th Circuit Solicitor Randy Newman. He was jailed under $50,000 bond.

“We did make a decision to charge the mother and charge Mr. Gleason with two counts of unlawful neglect,” Newman said Tuesday.

Newman, elected in 2014 after Soren died, declined to discuss details of the case or when Phillip Gleason may face trial.

Homicide by child abuse carries between 10 and 20 years for a conviction. Unlawful conduct toward a child carries up to 10 years for each charge.

It is unclear if April Gleason has a lawyer. Mike Lifsey, 6th Circuit chief public defender, said his office has not been assigned the case.

Phillip Gleason’s lawyer, Chris Wellborn – who had argued previously that Phillip Gleason is innocent – could not be reached.

Phillip Gleason is an Iraq and Afghanistan war veteran from Rock Hill who was attending Winthrop University at the time that he allegedly beat the child to death. Wellborn denied in court in 2013 that Gleason beat the child and blamed her injuries on seizures.

Phillip Gleason told police that Soren was choking, had a seizure and was coughing up blood after he carried her to a bathroom, Barfield said. He called 911, but emergency responders noticed how badly Soren had been injured.

Soren was bruised all over her body but died from the bleeding in her brain that occurred within hours of when Gleason was the only person caring for her, Barfield said in court in 2013 when he was the 6th Circuit solicitor who prosecuted criminal cases.

A Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office detective working the case at the time, Jason Catoe, described Soren’s injuries in 2013 as “one of the most brutal things I have ever seen.”

An autopsy showed bruises on all four limbs, her feet, chest and back, as well as several wounds to her head and face. She also suffered internal bleeding.

Teddy Kulmala: 803-329-4082; @teddy kulmala

Andrew Dys: 803-329-4065; @AndrewDysHerald

Follow Herald crime reporter Teddy Kulmala on twitter: @teddy_kulmala

Follow Herald columnist Andrew Dys on Twitter: @AndrewDysHerald

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