Dorothy Williams feared that her great-grandson would be killed long before his death almost two months ago.
Williams, 67, of North Charleston, said she had seen numerous bruises and marks on little Elijah Washington on several occasions before he succumbed to fatal injuries to his abdomen on March 19.
The Charleston County Coroner’s Office listed blunt force trauma as the 2-year-old’s official cause of death. Eyewitnesses told police that Elijah was hit by a man who was supposed to be watching him, according to an arrest affidavit.
Mount Pleasant police on Thursday charged 25-year-old Bryan Okeith Seabrook, of Mathis Ferry Road, with homicide by child abuse.
Williams said the injuries weren’t the first that the toddler endured. She said she reported numerous bruises and marks that she had noticed on the child to the state Department of Social Services, including a fractured wrist and leg.
“The system failed him,” she said.
Marilyn Matheus, a DSS spokeswoman, did not respond Friday to a call and an email from The Post and Courier seeking comment.
Williams wiped away tears streaming down her face and cried out after a bond hearing for the man accused of killing her great-grandson. She said she wished only that she could have done more to save his young life.
Since his death, Williams said, she has provided photos of Elijah’s injuries to Mount Pleasant police.
Police did not return a call from The Post and Courier seeking comment on Williams’ statements and on any past reports filed in connection with injuries to Elijah.
Detectives in an affidavit accused Seabrook of striking the child, causing the fatal injuries.
Elijah was unresponsive when Seabrook took him to East Cooper Medical Center, according to the affidavit. He was in full cardiopulmonary arrest when he was admitted, and he died shortly after, detectives said.
The death occurred “under circumstances manifesting an extreme indifference to human life,” the affidavit states.
County Magistrate Linda Lombard denied Seabrook bail on the charge Friday morning.
Williams attended the bond hearing with her sister and her granddaughter Kindrell Hartwell, 35, of North Charleston, by her side.
A female cousin of Seabrook also attended. None of the women offered any words during the proceeding.
Hartwell said she too has hard questions about Elijah’s care before his death, and thinks DSS should have intervened before it was too late. “It didn’t have to get this far,” she said.
A police incident report on the death mentions a prior DSS investigation involving Elijah, and notes that DSS had recently placed the child in the custody of his mother and grandmother. It also states that his biological father — not Seabrook — was prohibited from having contact with him.
Williams said Elijah was initially placed in her care three days after his birth in February 2011.
He took his first steps at her home and uttered his first word, “mama,” toward her, Williams said.
The child remained in her custody until DSS placed him back in his mother’s care in December, she said.
“I didn’t want him to go, but they told me I didn’t have a choice,” Williams said. Elijah was dead about three months later.
Police have not identified Elijah’s mother, who did not attend the hearing for Seabrook.
According to a police report, events surrounding the child’s death occurred as follow:
The child’s mother left home about 12:20 p.m. on March 19 to catch the first of two buses to Tanger Outlets for a 5 p.m. cosmetology class at the Paul Mitchell School. Seabrook was to keep an eye on the woman’s son and two daughters. Seabrook is the boyfriend of Elijah’s grandmother.
The mother met a friend at Dunkin’ Donuts while waiting for class to start. She decided to skip the class and go to Buffalo Wild Wings to celebrate her friend’s birthday.
Before they arrived, the mother received a call that her son was at East Cooper Medical Center. He died before she arrived.
Seabrook told officers that the boy threw up at the table and appeared weak in the bathtub. He appeared even worse after he placed him in bed, so he brought him to the hospital, according to police.
Seabrook has a criminal record that includes convictions for third-degree arson and failure to report a crime in 2010, according to the State Law Enforcement Division. He also was arrested in 2004 on a charge of first-degree criminal sexual conduct with a minor under the age of 11, but prosecutors later dismissed that charge, SLED records show.
Reach Christina Elmore at 937-5908 or at Twitter.com/celmorePC.