Rock Hill father sent to prison for the death of infant daughter

by: Greg Suskin Updated:

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ROCK HILL, S.C. —

Last summer, Samuel White was a hero.
 
Eyewitness News talked to him about how he urged his pregnant girlfriend Mandi Coley to jump from the second floor of their Rock Hill apartment during a massive fire.  
 
She jumped and he caught her along with help from police. 
 
That fire at Oak Hollow Apartments caused $650,000 damage and left 25 people homeless including White and Coley.
 
Two months later on Sept. 3 that child, Ja' Leyah White was born healthy.
 
There were no signs of health problems from the daring jump.
 
Exactly three months later on Dec. 3, she was dead and it was White's fault.
 
On Thursday, White was sentenced to 15 years in prison for child neglect and involuntary manslaughter.
 
He had been drinking that entire December day and smoking marijuana while he was alone with his infant daughter.  
 
His girlfriend Coley worked two jobs and when she got home late that night, White wouldn't come to the door.
 
She had to climb through a window to get in because White was so grossly intoxicated. 
 
She found their daughter dead in the bed.
 
White had passed out and suffocated her with part of his body. He was on top of the girl, who weighed just over 10 pounds.
 
On Thursday, White broke down in tears apologizing, and telling the judge he never meant to hurt his child.
 
"I know nothing I do can bring my daughter back," he said.  "Losing my daughter is more punishment than anyone can put on me."
 
Earlier, Coley also spoke on his behalf.  
 
She described White as an amazing dad.
 
"He's not as bad as you guys make him out to be," she said. "He really isn't. He's such an amazing person."
 
Even though prosecutors dropped the original homicide by child abuse charge that could've carried life in prison, they asked for a stiff sentence for White.
 
"This was not an isolated incident," said deputy solicitor Willy Thompson. "This was a loaded gun waiting to go off."
 
Thompson was referring to the fact that Department of Social Services was already involved with the family even though Ja'Leyah was only a few months old.