Defense attorney provided info to pathologist
HANAHAN — A top Berkeley County prosecutor questioned an autopsy report Wednesday that claims two children left alone in a car with food, water and battery-operated fans crawled into the trunk and passed out before dying from heat exposure.
Deputy Solicitor Blair Jennings said the items in the car and where the children died are not part of an investigative report that has been provided to his office so far by the Hanahan Police Department.
Documents such as the autopsy report help provide the foundation of facts on which a case is tried. Autopsy reports do not typically include multiple details from outside sources such as hired defense attorneys.
But that is the case with the report released Wednesday. The information came from defense attorney Andy Savage. His client, Sametta Heyward, is accused of putting her children in garbage bags after they died in the car while she was at work.
If found to be true, the new information could be used to portray Heyward in a more sympathetic light.
Savage said he has photographs one of his investigators took of the fans, food wrappers and bottles inside the car.
Shawn Campbell Jr., 4, and Triniti Campbell, 1, were left by Campbell in a
Chevrolet Cavalier on July 29 in an unshaded area outside Dana House, a residential care facility at 1402 Kentwood Circle on James Island, according to the autopsy report prepared by a pathologist at the Medical University of South Carolina.
Heyward, who arrived at work at 3 p.m., has said she checked on the children during her shift and found them to be fine. But a co-worker questioned by authorities didn't recall Heyward leaving the building, the report stated.
The temperature that day was 88 degrees and temperatures inside the car could have reached up to 140 degrees within an hour, one official said.
The pathologist's report notes that one child car seat was found in the Cavalier, but it was not secured. The car's child safety locks also were not activated. It was not known whether the windows were rolled up all the way, the report stated.
The report says Heyward found them in the trunk, unresponsive, when she left work around 11:45 p.m. A relative told investigators that Heyward tried CPR on the children, but when it didn't work, she drove them back to their extended-stay room at The Willows on Remount Road, Hanahan police said. She gave each child a bath, dressed them and then put them in garbage bags beneath the sink.
Dr. Erin Presnell, the pathologist who did the autopsy, referred questions about the narrative facts of the case — not the medical findings — to investigators and Savage. Savage said he discussed the case with Presnell but declined to discuss how the children might have gotten into the trunk and whether the back seat, which flips down in Cavaliers, was already down.
"That's why we have hearings," he said.
Heyward is in the Berkeley County Detention Center on two charges of homicide by child abuse. Her preliminary hearing is set for 10 a.m. Sept. 21.
Investigators found the children under the sink the next day while responding to a disturbance call at the apartment. Heyward was screaming, "Oh my babies, my babies" while locked in a struggle with a relative who arrived to check on the children. She pleaded with arresting officers to kill her while kicking and biting them, officers said.
Investigators say they found a suicide note Heyward had written that said she had to take the children with her to work at the Charleston County Disabilities Board because she couldn't find anyone to watch them. She wrote that she wanted to check on them but was afraid she would get in trouble. The Disabilities Board has said another employee could have covered for her had she told them she couldn't find childcare.
The autopsy report also says Heyward wrote that she was planning to hang herself in the car.
The report doesn't answer one of the most perplexing questions: Why didn't Shawn, at 4 years old, get out of the car?
Michele Struttman, director of the national nonprofit group Kids in Cars, which is geared toward preventing these types of deaths, said no studies have been done to determine why children who have the ability to get out of the car don't.
"I don't know why kids at that age don't try to get out, but they don't," Struttman said.
The mother may have told him not to leave his sister or that he would be punished if he got out of the car, she said.
"No one knows what this mother told him," Struttman said. "Maybe she told him, 'Stay in the car or I'll be fired.' Every parent is different."
Shawn was found with a black plastic bag over his legs and feet. A second bag covered his face and body. Triniti was found with two plastic bags over her legs and feet and two bags, one torn, over her face and body. A white towel was behind her head within the bags.