A Columbia woman has been arrested after a child in her care died over the weekend.
Margie Hamm, 34, was arrested and charged with homicide by child abuse, according to the Columbia Police Department. Hamm is the girlfriend of the father of the victim, according to police.
Police say she slammed 2-year-old Jayon Wilson Turnipseed's head into a faucet at a home in the 4100 block of Lester Drive Friday night. He was later found unresponsive by his father, who worked late the night before and did not check on the child before going to bed.
After a 911 call from the residence, emergency workers and police responded and found no obvious signs of trauma. Richland County Coroner Gary Watts later noticed a mark near Jayon's nose.
"Healthy two year old children don't, shouldn't die okay?" said Watts. "So we knew from the very beginning there was a problem with this.
The external injuries to two year old Jayon Wilson Turnipseed no comparison to what was beneath the skin.
"This was a significant blow that the child could not have done under normal circumstances," said Watts.
Hamm, who was caring for other children at the home, told police that the child ran into a door. Further investigation revealed Hamm slammed his head into a bathtub faucet while bathing him, according to an arrest warrant.
Police say two other children were in the bathtub when the injury occurred.
The warrant states Jayon had breathing difficulties and loss of strength within an hour of the incident. Watts said even if the child had received immediate medical attention, it may not have made a difference because the injury was so severe.
"She was angry to the point where she took this child's head, Jayon's head, and slammed in into the faucet of the bathtub, causing the injury and ultimately causing his death," said Acting Police Chief Ruben Santiago.
Police say, Jayon's father Terry Jenkins endured the death of Jayon's mother just 10 months ago in a Calhoun County crash. Jayon was in the car, but he survived.
The arrest warrant states Jayon had breathing difficulties and loss of strength within an hour of the incident. Watts said even if the child had received immediate medical attention, it may not have made a difference because the injury was so severe.
"This is an absolutely heartbreaking case. Children are supposed to be smiling, laughing, and playing," said Santiago. "They are not supposed to fear that they could be injured or killed by someone who is supposed to love and care for them."
Watts also noted the boy's mother died in a car crash just 10 months ago in Orangeburg. Jayon survived the crash.
In Columbia last year, there were 73 child abuse cases the city alone investigated. So far 25 this year, prompting this plea from the acting chief to the community.
"We need to make sure that they're being reported properly and being investigated properly," said Santiago. "But the biggest part of that message means we need to be proactive in preventing them from happening."
Advocates say that means when family or friends see abuse, to encourage the abuser to reach out for resources including the Department of Mental Health's Assessment and Resource Center.
"We all have a duty to properly care for children," said Santiago. "If a parent or caregiver cannot do that help is available. If someone suspects abuse or neglect of a child, they can't say, ‘It's none of my business.' We all have to be proactive. CPD is a resource as well as other child advocacy agencies."
"Parents often react impulsively and in anger but normally not to this extent," said Dr. Alicia Benedetto from the Assessment Resource Center. "Education is important. Anyone who has eyes on a child should report potential abuse."
Benedetto offers the following tips for parents and caregivers if they start to feel anger towards a child:
Remove yourself from the child if possible
Call for help
Find someone else to properly take care of the child while you relax
Do NOT leave a child unattended
Have a child-care plan before negative emotions take over
Get help for yourself
"It's good for any parent to have sort of an emergency person or two that you can call and just let them know you're having a hard time, and without questioning that person will come and take over for you and give you time to take a breath and step back from the situation and kind of get yourself under control again," said Benedetto.
In addition to reporting child abuse and neglect to CPD and other local law enforcement agencies, residents can call several groups for help including:
Richland County CPS 24-hour HOTLINE: 803.714.444
Children's Trust of South Carolina 803.733.5430
Hamm is being held at the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center awaiting a bond hearing. She faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.
Police do not expect to make any additional arrests.
Sunday, August 31 2014 3:28 PM EDT2014-08-31 19:28:29 GMT
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