Mother, boyfriend sentenced in beating death of 5-year-old Lancaster girl

LANCASTER, S.C. — A Lancaster man pleaded guilty Monday to voluntary manslaughter in connection with the beating death of his girlfriend's 5-year-old girl daughter.

Soren Chilson was found unresponsive on the bathroom floor inside her home in Lancaster on March 5, 2013.

Bryan Gleason was sentenced to 38 years in prison for voluntary manslaughter in Soren's death.

Soren's mother April Gleason will spend 18 years in prison for three counts of unlawful neglect of a child.

Prosecutors said Bryan Gleason abused the girl three different times while April Gleason was at work and he was home with her.

Soren had numerous bruises, broken bones and older injuries inflicted by Bryan Gleason, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors said Bryan Gleason sent April Gleason texts of “damage reports” about the injuries that he inflicted on the girl while he babysat her.

"He abused her several times. This was a month-long killing," solicitor Randy Newman said.

(Bryan Gleason, April Gleason)

Prosecutors said Soren’s mother took her time and didn’t rush home when she learned that her daughter was unresponsive.


A large crowd of sheriff’s deputies who worked the case were in court Monday. Some of them were brought to tears.

Prosecutors said doctors and nurses were crying as they tried in vain to save Soren's life. They were horrified that Bryan Gleason and April Gleason showed no emotion, prosecutors said.

Soren’s grandfather spoke in court, saying that Tuesday would have been Soren’s birthday, “but there won’t be any party.”

The child's grandfather said he could never forgive the Gleasons for what they did to Soren.

Before her sentencing, April Gleason read a statement to the court.

"When Soren was born, my entire life changed, and being her mother was and is the greatest joy of my life," she said.

The defense lawyer said Bryan Gleason suffered a traumatic brain injury after a bomb explosion in Iraq when he served in the Army.

Gleason still has short-term memory loss and trouble controlling his emotions since the war, attorneys said. The defense said that's not meant as an excuse.

Lancaster Deputy Charles Campbell held Soren's hand as she died at the hospital. He talked about a little girl whom he hardly knew.

"I did not know her, but I told her that I loved her and I told her I hope she was strong enough to hold on, but if not, I would understand," Campbell said.

"Monsters walk among us, and two of them are in this room here,” Deputy Jason Catoe said in court.

April Gleason is pregnant with another child, which will be delivered in prison. It's not clear what will happen to the baby, but the Department of Social Services is likely to take custody.

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