Angela Blackwell said nothing as a courtroom of people spoke during a Thursday bond hearing about her being accused of killing her 4-day-old son by putting him in a refrigerator for three hours.
Blackwell and her family wanted her home for Christmas.
They got their wish. A $25,000 personal recognizance bond, and house arrest, in a case that even prosecutors concede is “a tragedy.”
Attorneys say the defendant has the mental capacity of a fourth-grader. Her baby died in February after three hours in a refrigerator, and police say she confessed in a police re-enactment.
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Blackwell was silent during the 30-minute bond hearing, but she wept often. She cried as her husband said, “She’s a good momma.” She cried as an aunt told the court that people used to pick on her because of her mental abilities. And she cried as a prosecutor said her baby, William, was found suffering from hypothermia after three hours in the refrigerator.
Blackwell also cried as her lawyer and family said that she has no money and is not a flight risk. They said she did not flee during a six-month investigation before she was arrested in August.
Visiting Judge R. Keith Kelly, a candidate for a vacant S.C. Supreme Court position next year, gave Blackwell a $25,000 personal recognizance bond and house arrest after the hearing, said her lawyer, Mike Lifsey, 6th Circuit public defender.
The bond was given despite prosecutors saying there is concern that Blackwell could be “a risk to herself” if released on bond, pending homicide by child abuse charges that carry as much as life in prison.
Candice Lively, 6th Circuit deputy solicitor, conceded in court that the death of the baby is a “tragedy.” But she said the poor conditions at the home where Blackwell admitted to police in a re-enactment confession have not changed. She also said Blackwell has “special needs.”
Blackwell’s limited mental ability was confirmed by a court-ordered mental evaluation, but Blackwell is competent to stand trial, Lively said.
“She had no support, and that’s what got her frustrated and in the situation to begin with,” Lively said. “She said, herself, she was tired and had no help.”
Blackwell has another child, 3, who was taken into protective custody by the S.C. Department of Social Services in February, when police and social services workers found the baby who died and other conditions they said warranted removal of the older child.
Blackwell’s family and her lawyers say that there were at least nine other people in the house when the infant was put in the refrigerator.
Another one of her attorneys, 6th Circuit Assistant Public Defender William Frick, pointed in court to Blackwell’s limited mental capacity when confessing to police in the re-enactment.
Blackwell cried as Frick said: “This is a very, very sad situation for everyone involved and let’s remember, she lost a son.”
Blackwell and her husband live on disability checks, testimony showed, as do other adults in the Chester home. Blackwell’s husband, Jeffrey Lewis, said he still believes his wife is innocent despite her confession.
“I don’t believe she could hurt anyone,” Lewis said.