Beaufort mother accused of throwing toddler off balcony faces mental health evaluation

achristnovich@beaufortgazette.comDecember 20, 2012 

A woman accused of throwing her 3-year-old daughter off a third-floor balcony last year will soon undergo a psychiatric evaluation to determine if she's competent to stand trial, according to her attorney.

Shayla Jerea Bryan, now 23, told Beaufort police the night of Dec. 19, 2011, that she beat her child and dropped her off a third-floor balcony on an open stairwell at Cross Creek Apartments, where she lived.

Bryan was charged a day later with attempted murder, according to an arrest warrant. She was denied bond and has remained in the Beaufort County Detention Center since.

Beaufort Police Chief Matt Clancy said authorities will not release further information about the case before it goes to trial.

Her attorney, Charles Russell Keep III of Hilton Head Island, said he filed a notice of insanity on Bryan's behalf about 10 months ago. Fourteenth Circuit Solicitor Duffie Stone did not object to Keep's request for the competency test.

The evaluation will be done at a S.C. Department of Mental Health office in Columbia, Keep said. It will take several weeks for a report to be completed.

"They'll decide whether she's competent to assist in her own defense," he said. "If she's not, she won't stand trial."

Stone said that if Bryan is found to be incompetent, "the next step is to decide whether she can become competent later," he said. "We'll go from there."

Bryan's arrest warrant says she waived her Miranda rights and admitted to causing "life-threatening brain injuries and abdominal injuries" and confessed to having "intent of killing her child."

The girl, now 4, is doing well, Keep said. Attempts Thursday to identify family members were unsuccessful.

"The child, as I understand it, has made a complete recovery and is in the custody of family," Keep said.

Stone declined to comment on the child's health, citing medical privacy laws.

Bryan had no previous criminal record in Beaufort County, according to court records. If convicted, she will face as many as 30 years in prison, according to state law.

Related content

  1. Police: Girl beaten before falling from apartment balcony, Dec. 21, 2011
  2. Mother accused of throwing toddler off balcony, Dec. 20, 2011

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