COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — A 26-year-old man has been charged with involuntary manslaughter more than a year after he hugged a 14-month-old child so tightly that the boy stopped breathing and died, Orangeburg County Sheriff Leroy Ravenell said Wednesday.
Robert Kemp was taken into custody Tuesday and released on $10,000 bond the next day. Kemp is described as a family friend in a news release from Ravenell.
An arrest warrant said Kemp killed the child “by giving him a bear hug, squeezing the victim so tight that the victim stopped breathing as a result.”
Jaylen Harris died from asphyxiation, on June 27, 2013, Orangeburg County Chief Deputy Coroner Sean Fogle said.
Kemp told deputies he was playing with the child when he started to rub his eyes like he was tired, so he put the toddler in his crib on his back with his bottle, according to an incident report.
Kemp said he went to the kitchen to do some chores and realized he hadn’t heard the boy in a while. He went back into the bedroom and noticed the toddler on his stomach, unconscious with his hands balled into fists, according to the report.
Another person in the home, whose name was blacked out on the report, started CPR, but the boy could not be resuscitated, according to the report.
If convicted, Kemp faces up to five years in prison.
The sheriff’s release didn’t say why it took a year to bring charges, and a spokeswoman for the sheriff said in an email no more information would be released.
Kemp lives in Columbia, and a woman who identified herself as his mother when she answered the phone offered to give her son a message that was not returned.
The boy’s family created a website at GiveForward.com and is asking for donations to help cover his funeral costs.
“Baby Jaylen Harris passed away in his sleep of natural causes. He was 14 months old. He was the sweetest, happiest baby you would ever meet. He was a blessing and a joy to this family,” they wrote on the website.
A message left at a phone number listed for the baby’s mother was not returned.
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