St. Helena woman denied bond in toddler death case

rlurye@islandpacket.comMarch 20, 2014 

LaQuana Chisholm

A St. Helena Island woman was denied bond Thursday on a charge of homicide by child abuse in connection with the death of a 2-year-old girl hit on the head by a dumbbell.

Judge D. Craig Brown ruled that LaQuana Chere Chisolm, 26, will remain in the Beaufort County Detention Center until her trial, which a 14th Judicial Circuit assistant solicitor said could begin as early as July. If the case is not completed by Oct. 24, Chisolm's bond will be set at $100,000, with a condition she wear an electronic-monitoring ankle bracelet, Brown said.

Chisolm was watching her boyfriend's daughter at his Seaside Road home on March 4 when the child was struck on the head with a dumbbell, according to the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office. Chisolm did not seek medical attention for Phylicia Anaya Garry until her boyfriend's roommate came home several hours later and found the girl unresponsive and foaming at the mouth, assistant solicitor Mary Jordan Lempesis said.

Chisolm initially told medical staff that Garry fell off a bed, but later admitted she was exercising in her room when a 20-pound dumbbell left her hand and struck the toddler, Lempesis said. Chisolm told deputies the girl briefly cried and said her head hurt but otherwise acted normal, so she put her to bed, according to Lempesis.

However, a physician at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston -- where Garry died March 6 -- said the skull fracture the toddler suffered would have immediately rendered her unconscious, Lempesis said.

Chisolm also called Garry's mother, Elizabeth Eason, sometime after the 7:30 p.m. incident and told her she could not get her daughter back that night because they were attending a birthday party in Charleston, Lempesis said.

Eason attended the hearing, according to Lempesis, but chose not to address the court.

Chisolm's attorney, Ian Deysach, said he had not spoken to the physician and could not comment on the medical facts of the case. Regarding her bond, he argued that she was neither a flight risk nor a danger to her own three children, whom the Department of Social Services has placed with Chisolm's aunt.

Chisolm posted a bond of $50,000 after her first arrest for child abuse, when the child was still alive. She has been in the Beaufort County Detention Center since shortly after the child's death, .

Deysach asked the judge to let the original bond of $50,000 allow Chisolm's release. At his signal, about a dozen people stood in support of Chisolm.

"It speaks to her character and their belief, in this case, that what happened to Phylicia was an accident," Deysach said.

After the hearing, the same group formed a circle in the courthouse parking lot and said a prayer for Chisolm, affirming her innocence.

"Cursing and arguing is not going to fix it. LaQuana needs prayer," led one woman, who later declined to give her name. "I believe her, and I believe her word."

Follow reporter Rebecca Lurye on Twitter at twitter.com/IPBG_Rebecca.

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