New lawsuit reveals ‘deplorable conditions’ that allegedly led to an Upstate 14-year-old’s death

The 14-year-old’s parents are facing murder charges. Now her aunts want to hold the state accountable
A new lawsuit points the finger at three different state departments saying they are responsible for the death of a 14-year-old special needs girl.
Published: Aug. 1, 2023 at 5:02 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

CHEROKEE COUNTY, S.C. (FOX Carolina) -Before 14-year-old Heather Baynard died in April 2022, she spent months living among mounds of trash, vermin and feces, as illustrated by photographs attached to a new lawsuit.

Heather, who had the mental capabilities of a three-month-old as a result of her various medical conditions, died from neglect last spring, according to the Cherokee County Coroner.

Investigators, who said this was the worst case of child abuse they’ve seen in Cherokee County, charged Heather’s mother, Bobbi Jo Baynard, her father, David Eugene Baynard, and her brother, Edward Vincent Baynard, with her murder.

Now Heather’s aunts Rebekah and Jessica Melton, are suing three state-run agencies for not doing enough to prevent their niece’s death.

The lawsuit said the Department of Social Services, the Department of Disabilities and Special Needs and the Department of Health and Human Services “could and should have taken action” to save Heather.

DSS took Heather into emergency protective custody twice before her death: once when Heather was a baby and again in 2016. The lawsuit said the Baynard home was “infested with roaches.”

The lawsuit said DSS was supposed to do weekly visits for the next three years, but during that time Heather was hospitalized for pneumonia and sepsis.

In 2020, DDSN and HHS got involved, offering Heather Medicaid services. Their services providers were supposed to conduct in-person visits at least once every six months, but the lawsuit said they “failed to do so.”

Meanwhile, conditions at the Baynard home worsened, the lawsuit said, to the point that investigators had to wear special protective gear.

“Waking up and being in that environment every single morning, to me, it’s just unfathomable,” Cherokee County Sheriff Steve Mueller said in a May 2022 interview about the conditions at the family home.

“As a result of being exposed to such horrible conditions ... Heather suffered, and her condition progressively deteriorated to the point that she became completely unresponsive on April 11, 2022,” the lawsuit said.

There are several other parties named in this lawsuit, including the two companies contracted to provide Medicaid care to Heather.

Heather’s pediatrician, Dr. Marcia Parra, is also named. The documents said the doctor noted many missed appointments in Heather’s file, but did not contact authorities. Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System, which employs Dr. Parra, sent the following comment on her behalf:

DDSN and HHS both told FOX Carolina News they cannot comment on pending litigation.