CHESTER, S.C. — Angela Renee Blackwell walked into court Tuesday with her hands cuffed in front of her. She barely spoke above a whisper, facing a judge on a charge of homicide by child abuse.
Blackwell, 27, is accused of putting her four-day old son William in a refrigerator for three hours at her home on Rose Street on Feb 27.
Deputies said she then removed him, and called for help.
According to the coroner, the infant died from hypothermia. He was pronounced dead at the hospital after doctors were not able to raise his body temperature quickly enough to save him. They had initially detected a faint heartbeat.
Billy Lewis is the baby's grandfather. He became emotional when speaking to Channel 9, remembering holding his grandson just one time.
"I held him for two and a half hours. And I sang to him, and talked to him, and that was the only time I did," he said.
Family friend Tim Houston said when the child died, there were rumors in the neighborhood.
"There was lots of talk around town about what happened. All I knew was a baby had died," Houston said. “I feel for them. I feel for both of them."
The child's father, Jeff Lewis, told Channel 9 that Blackwell didn't kill their son.
"She's innocent. She's a good mother," he said.
His father said the same thing. In fact, several family members said there were many people in the house that night in February. They believe another young child, who had autism, put the baby in the refrigerator.
"I think it’s all bull (expletive)" Lewis said. "She didn't hurt the child. She didn't do nothing to cause it to die."
The investigation was lengthy as deputies interviewed many people who were in the house, and South Carolina Law Enforcement Division officials also got involved in the case. Investigators also had to wait on results from medical tests.
Nearly six months later, Blackwell was charged.
"You just wouldn't think a mother would do that to a child," Houston said.
Family members also said Blackwell has a mental disability. Lewis said their older son, who is 2, was taken by the Department of Social Services after William's death. He's trying to get his son back now.
"That’s why I’m trying to clean up the yard and my house, to get my son. I want him home," Lewis said.
Calls to DSS from Channel 9 about the family's case were not returned on Tuesday.
Following the bond hearing, Channel 9 asked Blackwell's public defender, William Frick, about the family's claims that another child in the home was responsible and not Blackwell.
He said he was just given the case and had no information about that yet.
Blackwell faces 20 years to life in prison if she's convicted of homicide by child abuse.
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