Beaufort mother convicted in toddler's overdose death

BEAUFORT -- After maintaining a steely demeanor for two days while on trial for the death of her infant son, Paris Avery was inconsolable after being found guilty Wednesday by a Beaufort County jury.

The jury deliberated nearly two hours before convicting the 25-year-old Beaufort woman of homicide by child abuse, ensuring that she will spend no less than the next 20 years behind bars -- and possibly life. She will be sentenced at 11 a.m. today.

Avery's 15-month-old son Ra'Saan Avery Young was found dead Aug. 19, 2006, at the home of a baby sitter.

Investigators said Avery gave her son too much Atarax, a prescription antihistamine used to relieve itching associated with eczema.

Ra'Saan's hydroxyzine levels were about six times the expected concentration for someone his age, a toxicologist testified Tuesday.

Beaufort County Chief Public Defender Gene Hood asked Circuit Court Judge Carmen Tevis Mullen on Wednesday morning to dismiss the case, citing the prosecution's lack of convincing evidence.

"We don't even know what's in that bottle," he said. "We don't have Paris Avery in custody of the child at the time of the death."

"There is no warning anywhere to anyone that these drugs will do you any harm, and certainly not cause death," he said.

Deputy Solicitor Angela McCall-Tanner said any time you put a foreign substance into your body, you assume a certain risk.

"There's no warning of death on a bottle of aspirin but if you take too many it will kill you," she said.

Mullen dismissed Hood's motion.

Avery remained expressionless and subdued throughout most of the trial, even as the verdict was read aloud. But as the jury exited the courtroom, she became hysterical.

Sobbing uncontrollably, Avery had to be removed from the courtroom by two jail guards.

As she was taken away, her screams and shrieks could be heard by those still inside the courtroom.

After the jury delivered its verdict, Hood appealed again to Judge Mullen for a mistrial, arguing the prosecution didn't prove its case.

Mullen said she would review the motions filed in the case before issuing a judgment on the motion.