Judge refuses to set bond for SC mom in baby’s death, orders mental evaluation

Mom charged in baby's death

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, SC (WBTV) - A South Carolina judge refuses to set bond for a young mother accused of killing her baby and stuffing her body inside a diaper box last year.

Breanna Lewis, 20, appeared before Judge Paul Burch of the 4th Circuit Wednesday morning for a bond hearing. Lewis was arrested in May after Chesterfield County deputies found her 11-month-old baby’s body stuffed in a diaper box and plastic bag in a wooded area not far from her home on Daisy Lewis Lane.

She was charged with desecration of human remains, tampering with evidence, and giving false information to law enforcement. She was later charged with homicide by child abuse to which she faces up to 20 years to life in prison, if convicted.

Lewis’ defense attorneys say she has been in jail for 224 days. She previously waived her right to a bond hearing over the summer.

Wednesday morning Deputy Solicitor Kernard Redmond asked Judge Paul Burch to deny Lewis’ bond for several reasons. He says Lewis could be a flight risk since she has no ties to Chesterfield County other than her then girlfriend who she was living with during the time of Harlee’s death. Redmond said Lewis had only been living in Chesterfield County for three weeks before Harlee died. He also stated that her father is a truck driver, giving her the opportunity to leave the area if released.

Redmond revealed in court the autopsy results of Harlee. He says the 11-month-old died from cerebral edema, or swelling due to excess fluid in the brain, and/or suffocation. He says there were also “several red flags” in the autopsy report, but did not elaborate further. The defense did not agree with the results.

“We dispute that and I think there is going to be significant evidence to show otherwise,” Franklin Joyner said.

“She did not admit to being involved in the child’s death however the story that she did give was such that she blacked out in certain points,” Redmond said. “For instance, she indicated that she attempted to give the child CPR. that she had the child in a playpen and when she came back into the room a short while later that Harlee was not breathing and she did attempt to give her CPR but then curiously that’s when she says she blacked out.”

If bond was granted for Lewis, Redmond asked that it be a high bond and that she be placed on GPS monitoring.

Defense attorney Franklin B. Joyner asked Judge Burch to grant her bond and said they would request GPS monitoring too. Joyner says Lewis is from Hamlet, NC in Richmond County which is roughly 30 miles from Chesterfield.

“For two decades she’s lived within 25 minutes of Chesterfield County. So for their idea that she’s somehow going to hop a plane and go to Brazil or somehow go to Georgia or California or whatever they say, I don’t think that any past conduct indicates that being a future possibility,” Joyner said.

Joyner added that she was previously employed at Perdue Farms. He says she needs to be out of jail to work.

I think it would be unjust to leave our client in jail for what could end up to be over a year when she needs to be out, she needs to be gainfully employed, and she needs to help us in her defense,” Joyner said.

Judge Burch said the defense made strong points, but he was putting off the final decision until later. He refused to set a bond for Lewis until she undergoes a mental evaluation. He says the evaluation needs to be expedited since the case has already moved through the court system slowly. Attorneys say a trial date will not be set until after June 2019.

“I want it expedited. And as soon as we get that back we will reopen this hearing and take it from there. But I’m not going to make a move now until I know more about her mental status,” Judge Burch said.

The defense asked Judge Burch to keep the results of the mental evaluation private to just attorneys and the judge. The request was granted.

Lewis will remain in jail until her next bond hearing which has not been set.

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