• ‘Not a heartless monster': Lawyer for Lancaster woman accused in 3-year old's death

    By: Greg Suskin

    Updated:

    LANCASTER, S.C. - Kayla Cook was charged with beating 3-year-old Lily Schroeder in the head, which caused her death.

    Cook was babysitting the child in December.

    Channel 9 was in court Friday for a bond hearing for Cook.  

    [Grandmother arrested in connection with 3-year-old's beating death]

    "This child went through hell that day," said solicitor Randy Newman, who argued to keep Cook locked up until her trial.

    Newman became emotional during the hearing.

    "I'm sorry your honor. I have a child the same age," Newman said, pausing to collect himself while reviewing the disturbing facts of the case.

    Lancaster police went to a home on Heath Circle on Dec. 18 after a neighbor called 911. At the time, police said Cook told them the girl had gone to the bathroom in her pants during potty-training.

    Cook put her in the bathtub. 

    Later, Cook said she heard a thud and said the girl had slipped in the tub.

    The prosecutor said when police arrived, the girl was in dry clothes. Her body temperature was so low that it wouldn't register on a hospital thermometer. 

    Lancaster investigator Jodi Sims was the first officer on scene that day. She and another officer didn’t wait for paramedics and took the child into a police cruiser and began CPR and chest compressions on her.

    On Friday, Sims broke down as she asked the judge to deny bond.

    "I have two girls, and this has been one of the most difficult cases I've ever had to work," she said.

    Lily's father, Timothy Schroeder, was in the courtroom Friday. He didn't speak, but the child's great-grandmother Marjorie Helms spoke for him.

    "He visits her grave every day and talks to her, and tries to tell her how much he misses and loves her," Helms said.

    Lily's Great Aunt Tammi Hafner also spoke against the bond for Cook. She asked the judge why Cook should be free to see her own children.

    "Why should she get to play with her kids? She shouldn't,” Hafner said. “We can never play with Lily again," she said.

    Lancaster police said Cook, who is the girlfriend of the child's father, wasn't supposed to be watching the girl. Her grandmother was supposed to take care of the child, according to the Department of Social Services.

    The grandmother, Tracy Schroeder, was charged with child neglect days later after DSS said she broke an agreement with the agency to be the primary caregiver for the child.

    Lily died two weeks after her third birthday. The hospital staff worked to save her life  for nearly one hour.

    Cook's defense lawyer and family members spoke on her behalf.  They said she was good with children, including her own and would never have hurt a child.

    The judge denied bond, citing the serious nature of the charge against her.

    A trial isn't likely in the case until next spring.

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