In a fit of rage, a woman allegedly slammed a 2-year-old Columbia boy’s head into a bathtub faucet while bathing him and then put him to sleep, police said Thursday.
The toddler died the next day.
Days later, officers arrested Ms. Margie Rene Hamm, 34, — the girlfriend of the boy’s father — and charged her with homicide by child abuse, Columbia police announced Thursday.
“This is an absolutely heartbreaking case,” Interim Chief Ruben Santiago said in a news release. “Children are supposed to be smiling, laughing, and playing. They are not supposed to fear that they could be injured or killed by someone who is supposed to love and care for them.”
The alleged incident happened on May 17 at home in the 4100 block of Lester Drive, police spokeswoman Ms. Jennifer Timmons said.
“Hamm allegedly slammed a 2-year-old boy’s head into a bathtub faucet while she bathed him,” Ms. Timmons said. “It is believed that Hamm put the child to bed after allegedly abusing him.
“While the investigation continues, CPD believes that the motive was anger.”
That Friday night, the boy’s father reportedly came home late from work and went straight to bed.
He found the boy unresponsive the next morning and called 911, Ms. Timmons said.
When officers and paramedics responded to the home on Saturday, they found no obvious signs of injury on the child, she said.
But an autopsy showed he died of blunt force injury to the head, which caused brain damage, according to the Richland County Coroner Mr. Gary Watts.
“This shouldn’t have happened,” Mr. Watts said. “This was a serious injury that the child couldn’t have done under normal circumstances. This is an absolutely horrific act that Ms. Hamm is accused of doing to this child.”
Ms. Hamm was the primary caregiver of the child and two other children at the time of the incident, police said.
“Parents often react impulsively and in anger but normally not to this extent,” Dr. Alicia Benedetto from the Assessment Resource Center (ARC) in Columbia said. “Education is important. Anyone who has eyes on a child should report potential abuse.”
She offers the following tips for parents and caregivers if they start to feel anger towards a child:
• Remove yourself from the child if possible
• Call for help
• Find someone else to properly take care of the child while you relax
• Do NOT leave a child unattended
• Have a child-care plan before negative emotions take over
• Get help for yourself
In addition to reporting child abuse and neglect to local law enforcement agencies, residents can call several groups for help including:
South Carolina Department of Social Service’s 24-hour HOTLINE at (803)714- 4444
Children’s Trust of South Carolina at (803) 733-5430
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