LANCASTER, S.C. Blue-eyed, curly-haired Soren Victoria Chilson laughed at horror movies.
“What 5-year-old do you know that laughs at horror movies?” said her aunt, Sarah Chilson-Cole. “She knew better. She knew it was on TV.”
Soren enjoyed a good swim, played video games with her father and liked to “annihilate” her cousins’ toys.
“You could always tell when Soren” had been in Chilson-Cole’s daughters’ room, she said. “Their floor would be covered in toys. She loved all the toys they had.”
She loved her father more.
“She was the light of his life,” Chilson-Cole said. “She idolized her daddy.”
This week – for the third time in barely six months – Chilson-Cole and the rest of her family have had to say goodbye to a loved one. In September, her mother died of cancer. A few days before Christmas, Jeremy Chilson – Soren’s father and Chilson-Cole’s brother – died.
And early Tuesday, police say, Soren, who just turned 5 in January, was beaten to death at her home on Craig Farm Road, which she shared with her mother and her mother’s boyfriend, Phillip Bryan Gleason, 27.
At about 12:40 a.m., Gleason called police to report a problem with Soren. When deputies arrived, they found the girl unresponsive in the bathroom. Paramedics took her to Springs Memorial Hospital, where she died.
Authorities investigated the girl’s death after finding her injuries suspicious.
Preliminary autopsy results show that Soren apparently died from blunt force trauma to the head, Lancaster County Coroner Mike Morris said. Investigators gathered statements from Gleason, as well as “physical evidence from the scene,” according to an arrest warrant.
Lancaster County Sheriff Barry Faile would not say what kind of head injuries Soren suffered or what object might have been used. He would not discuss whether more arrests or charges are pending.
Police questioned Gleason, who was left alone with Soren while her mother went to work. By Tuesday evening, they had charged him with homicide by child abuse. On Wednesday, he appeared before a magistrate in a Lancaster County courtroom, where bond was denied.
Homicide by child abuse is a felony that, upon conviction, carries a penalty of 20 years to life in prison.
Gleason is a student at Winthrop University, studying political science.
On Wednesday, he was suspended, school spokeswoman Rebecca Masters said, and is not allowed to be on campus without permission.
Soren’s funeral is scheduled for 2 p.m. Friday at Antioch Baptist Church in Lancaster. A burial will follow in the church cemetery.