LANCASTER Despite a grandmothers plea that a tiny little girl had no chance to fight off a monster, a judge set a $150,000 bond Friday for the wounded Iraq War veteran accused of beating his girlfriends daughter to death outside Lancaster earlier this month.
Yet for the first time, the lawyer for accused child killer Phillip Gleason offered a defense in the case, saying that shaken baby cases are junk science and Soren Chilsons death from brain injuries is consistent with choking after a seizure.
Judge Brooks Goldsmith called what happened to Soren, 5, a heinous crime but set a bond for Phillip Gleason, 27. Gleason, a Winthrop student and Purple Heart recipient who was injured by a bomb in Iraq in 2006 while serving in the Army, is the boyfriend of Sorens mother, April Snipes. He was charged with homicide by child abuse after Soren died March 5 and has been in jail ever since. A conviction carries up to life in prison.
Soren was bruised all over her body but died from the bleeding in her brain that had occurred within hours when the sole person caring for her was Gleason, said Doug Barfield, 6th Circuit Solicitor. A pair of detectives with the Lancaster County Sheriffs Office, Jason Catoe and Craig Bailey, joined Barfield in asking that bond be denied because Soren was so badly beaten.
Catoe described Sorens injuries as one of the most brutal things I have ever seen.
Bailey, a 24-year detective, was close to tears in court when telling the judge, You could hardly put your hand on her and not touch a bruise...She was completely innocent.
Lancaster County Sheriff Barry Faile point-blank told the judge in asking that bond be denied: This man is a danger to the community.
Gleason told police that Soren was choking and had a seizure along with coughing up blood after he had to carry her to the bathroom, said Barfield the prosecutor. He called 911, but emergency responders noticed how badly Soren had been injured.
An autopsy showed bruises on all four limbs, her feet, chest and back, as well as several wounds to her head and face. She also had internal bleeding. Sorens step-grandmother, Wanda Chilson, emotionally said that Soren would never attend school, marry, or have a life because of Gleason, whom she described as a monster.
Sorens father, Jeremy Chilson, died in December. Her mother was not in court Friday.
Gleason did not speak in court, but his lawyer, Chris Wellborn of Rock Hill, said that Gleason is neither a flight risk nor danger to the community and was miffed that the bond hearing became a trial for the case with so much testimony from law enforcement when the sole reason for the court hearing was to argue for bond.
Further, Wellborn argued, the brain injuries Soren suffered could have come after she was choking and Gleason tried to help her before she died.
There is bruising, no question, Wellborn said. But does that mean my client beat her? No.
Gleason will be required to wear a GPS monitor if he is able to make bail.
Andrew Dys * 803-329-4065