Mother charged with homicide by child abuse in death of baby boy - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina |

Mother charged with homicide by child abuse in death of baby boy

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Jennifer Coles (Source: Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center) Jennifer Coles (Source: Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center)
Bryson Webb (Source: Facebook) Bryson Webb (Source: Facebook)
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RICHLAND COUNTY, SC (WIS) -

The mother of a 5-month-old child who died in April has been charged with homicide by child abuse.

Jennifer Coles, 28, is accused of failing to use a medically-ordered heart monitor for her baby boy, Bryson Webb, who had been diagnosed with cardiac problems.

Coles was initially charged with unlawful neglect towards a child on April 29. Those charges were upgraded Tuesday after investigators discovered Coles also did not give Webb the proper prescribed medications, according to Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott.

Lott and Coroner Gary Watts began looking into the case weeks ago.

Lott said the infant was supposed to be on a monitor at all times but despite clear orders from medical professionals, Coles failed to use that device to make sure Webb was not experiencing a breathing crisis.

Investigators said Coles 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.  

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

The Richland County Social Services Department had been aware of the mandated monitor for more than seven weeks. The department was the target of harsh criticism following the boy's death.

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

"Here's her address on this report on where she's staying," said Lott, "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.  

Following Webb's death, DSS made a change to its policy defining a specific time period for staff to contact law enforcement for aid in locating children and families.

"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," an April 30 DSS 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."

Coles faces 20 years to life in prison if convicted.

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