Sheriff: DSS didn't follow up on complaint

Jennifer Coles (Source: Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center)
Jennifer Coles (Source: Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center)
Bryson Webb (Source: Facebook)
Bryson Webb (Source: Facebook)

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - The mother of a 5-month-old child who died last week received a $10,000 cash surety bond by a judge Wednesday morning.

Jennifer Coles, 28, was arrested and charged with unlawful neglect towards a child Tuesday by deputies from the Richland County Sheriff's Department

Last Tuesday, Sheriff Leon Lott and Coroner Gary Watts began looking into the child's death. The infant had been diagnosed with cardiac problems and was supposed to be on a monitor at all times.

Lott says despite clear orders from medical professionals, Coles failed to use that monitor to make sure her little boy, Bryson Webb, was not experiencing a breathing crisis.

But investigators say Coles ignored the danger and had not used the monitor since March 28, weeks before her son stopped breathing while he was in a car seat in the parking lot of a Family Dollar store. That happened on April 22 when the boy died of apnea, according to Richland County Coroner Gary Watts.

The Richland County Social Services Department had been aware of the mandated monitor for more than seven weeks.

Investigators say the monitor was found in the trunk of a car under a pile of clothes.

DSS claims that it could not find the family after being told March 3 that Coles was not following doctor's orders. Lott says that is also hard to understand.

"Here's here address on this report on where she's staying. The medical professional that made the phone call on March 3 had contact with Jennifer Coles constantly, knew where she was at, knew her phone number, knew how to get her.  

DSS is now being criticized for this case by elected officials and even the sheriff himself.

In a statement released Wednesday, the department says they work hard to protect children, but their best efforts sometimes aren't enough in some cases.

"Despite the very best efforts of DSS, there are tragic cases where the system as a whole is not able to prevent a child from being harmed by their own parents," the statement said. "We are always looking for ways to improve our policies to protect children and families in the best and most effective ways possible - which is why effective immediately, we are adding a requirement that if our staff cannot locate a child or family within 72 hours, they must contact law enforcement for assistance."

Lott says the case remains under investigation and the charges could be upgraded for Coles to homicide by child abuse.

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