The toddler whimpered in the background as a 911 dispatcher struggled with a caller to count each of the girl's breaths.
The girl was breathing, but just barely, the caller frantically reported.
The call placed April 16 drew first responders to a North Charleston home in the Dorchester Gardens apartment complex. Three days later, the child was dead.
North Charleston police have charged 46-year-old Eugene Anthony Wright with homicide by child abuse in the death of his 17-month-old daughter, Payton Williams.
The child's family is now subject to an investigation by Department of Social Services officials as a result of her death, officials said.
Details surrounding the alleged abuse remain scarce a week after the incident was initially reported.
A North Charleston police report offered little information about the events that led to the child's death. Detective notes that would offer further insight into the homicide investigation are not subject to release.
A detective in an arrest affidavit accused Wright of grabbing his daughter "in an angry rage." He then "raised her over his head and slammed her body violently to the hard kitchen floor," the affidavit stated.
Payton suffered bleeding and swelling to her brain, retinal hemorrhages and extensive soft tissue edema along her spine, authorities said. She died from her injuries Saturday while in the care of doctors.
The girl's mother was at work when the abuse is said to have occurred, North Charleston police spokesman Spencer Pryor said. She declined to comment on the death in a call from The Post and Courier.
North Charleston police received no prior reports of abuse involving Payton before her death, Pryor said.
According to DSS spokeswoman Marilyn Matheus, the department did not have a history with the family prior to Payton's death. She said an investigation is now underway in regard to an older child who also lived in the home.
"We will be monitoring to make sure that the child is safe," Matheus said.
Law enforcement did not place the older child into protective custody, but the child was placed outside of the home, Matheus said.
On April 16, a dispatcher repeatedly called out to an unidentified caller but received no response as the chaos unfolded in the background, according to 911 tapes released by Charleston County officials. A woman could be heard yelling "Payton" over and over again before the call ended.
In a second call to 911, a woman struggled to keep the girl awake while talking with a dispatcher.
The caller did not allege that the girl had been abused.
"She was standing up and she just fell out," the woman told a dispatcher. "If I shake her once in a while, she'll move."
The dispatcher urged the woman to say "now" for every gulp of air taken by the child.
The woman grew frantic as the child's breaths appeared fewer and farther between.
"Payton. ... Come on baby, come on," she yelled. The girl whimpered in the background.
Abuse in the Lowcountry
Payton is the latest of at least 25 children who died in the Charleston area as a result of child abuse since 2001.
Data compiled by Kids Count, a nationwide child advocacy organization, showed 11,087 South Carolina children were victims of maltreatment in 2011, the latest year in the study. Ten cases were reported for every 1,000 children, according to the study.
California reported the most maltreatment cases that year with 79,995, - nine cases for every 1,000 children, the data showed.
The District of Columbia saw the highest rate of maltreatment nationwide in 2011 with 23 cases per every 1,000 children.
Seeing the signs of abuse
Most cases of physical abuse are not so severe as to result in death, Dee Norton Lowcountry Children's Center Executive Director Carole Swiecicki said.
When it does occur, some parents report lashing out at their children due to stress and their own issues with impulse control, Swiecicki said. Others suggest the abuse occurred gradually over time, she said.
"Similarly to other types of trauma, you want to look at any changes in terms of new fears that a child may develop," Swiecicki said of signs that may suggest abuse. "For example, the child may have been toilet trained but then suddenly they're not. They may have bruises that they can't explain, or they can't provide a history for their broken bones."
Concerned adults should report suspected abuse before it is too late, Swiecicki said. It may just save a life.
Reach Christina Elmore at 937-5908 or at Twitter.com/celmorePC.
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