Mom reportedly said son possessed

Amber Lynn Bracci is escorted by court employees into a Dorchester County courtroom for a bond hearing Wednesday.

David MacDougall

ST. GEORGE -- A woman whose 16-month-old son died of a head injury told police she struck the child because she thought he was possessed, according to a lawyer at a bond hearing Wednesday.

Attorneys for Amber Lynn Bracci, 19, of Ridgeville, and John D. Weaver II, 20, of Summerville, asked Circuit Judge Diane S. Goodstein to consider freeing their clients on bail. Both are charged with homicide by child abuse in the death of Bracci's son.

The child, Rowan Bracci, died in a hospital Jan. 8 of injuries to his head, according to Dorchester County Coroner Chris Nisbet. Rowan had been rushed to a hospital Jan. 6 after his mother called 911 at her Rowan Drive home.

Doctors contacted the Dorchester County Sheriff's Office because the boy's injuries were consistent with child abuse.

Bracci has been behind bars since Jan. 14, when she was arrested by the Sheriff's Office and charged with homicide by child abuse.

A grand jury last week returned a direct indictment of her boyfriend, Weaver, on the same charge. The grand jury also indicted Amber Bracci.

Weaver has been in jail since Monday, when he turned himself in at the Dorchester County Detention Center.

In shackles and wearing orange-and-white jumpsuits, Bracci and Weaver were ushered separately into the courtroom. They did not sit together and apparently did not speak to each other during the hearing in Dorchester County General Sessions Court. They also did not address the judge.

A sheriff's investigator laid out the facts of the case, including the information that Bracci admitted smoking two bowls of marijuana between the time she first noticed her child was ill and the time she called 911, a span of more than two hours.

"By doing this, she failed to render aid in a timely manner," he said.

The detective also said the medical examiner determined that the toddler died of an injury caused by a blow to the head and estimated the time of the injury to have been about six hours before EMS was called.

Bracci had told deputies she had struck her child, according to the affidavit in the warrant for her arrest.

First Circuit Assistant Solicitor Donald N. Sorensen asked that bond be denied for Bracci, calling her a flight risk. A sheriff's detective said deputies had received word after the child died that

Bracci was planning to go to Florida to live with her mother.

Bracci's lawyer, Mitchell Farley of the Dorchester County Public Defender's Office, said Bracci was mourning the death of her only child and it was only natural that she would think of trying to spend time with her mother.

Farley said Bracci understands that she cannot leave the area, and if she is released she will live with her grandparents in Ladson. Bracci has no criminal record, he said.

Farley also suggested that Bracci be placed on GPS monitoring as a condition of her release.

Weaver's lawyer, Andy Savage, told Goodstein that Weaver had cooperated with investigators and given them several statements.

"In those statements, the worst thing he said, in terms of his culpability, is that while he was in that house he engaged in the consumption of marijuana," Savage said.

Savage said that statements from Bracci did not accuse Weaver of having struck the child.

He also said Bracci "made a statement that she struck the child because she felt the child was possessed."

Weaver surrendered voluntarily and was not likely to run away, Savage said. He said Weaver will live with his parents if he is released, and he asked for a personal recognizance bond.

Weaver has a minor criminal record, having been convicted of possession of marijuana and possession of beer and alcohol by a minor in August, the prosecutor said.

Goodstein said she would announce her ruling today.