SC woman in prison for child’s death has terminal cancer. She asked for early release.

SC woman in prison for child’s death has terminal cancer. She asked for early release.
Kayla Marie Cook (Source: Lancaster County Sheriff's Office)

LANCASTER, S.C. (Rock Hill Herald) - A Lancaster woman, now serving life in prison for the beating death of a child, has been denied a pardon from prison despite claims she has less than a year to live due to terminal cancer.

Kayla Marie Cook, 28, was convicted of homicide by child abuse in August 2019 for the 2017 killing of 3-year-old Lillian Schroeder. Lillian was beaten to death while in Cook’s care, police and prosecutors said during the trial.

After a teleconforence hearing Wednesday before the South Carolina pardon board, Cook was unanimously denied a pardon, officials said.

Cook petitioned the S.C. Parole and Pardon Board for a pardon because of a terminal illness, said Matthew Buchanan, spokesman for the S.C. Department of Probation, Parole, and Pardon Services.

South Carolina law states the pardon board must give “consideration to any inmate afflicted with a terminal illness where life expectancy is one year or less.”

In an application to the pardon board obtained by The Herald, two doctors said in letters that Cook has cancer of the neck and head that is not curable.

Cook was arrested after the child’s death but had been released on bond before the trial because she required cancer treatment, officials said in court in November 2018.

She was sentenced to life without parole in the August 2019 trial, according to court records. Cook has been in prison in the Graham Correctional Institution of the S.C. Department of Corrections since her conviction.

The hearing was handled Wednesday by teleconference because of the coronavirus pandemic, officials aid.

Sixth Circuit Solicitor Randy Newman said he and the prosecutors who tried the homicide case against Cook, along with the victim’s family, participated in the hearing. Newman said all family members and law enforcement from the State Law Enforcement Division asked that Cook remain in prison.

“We are pleased with the result that the pardon was denied,” Newman said.

Newman said his office will oppose any attempt by Cook for early release from prison.