Saturday, October 15, 2011

Proof that the Courts don't always know best: Couple charged in child’s death

BENNETTSVILLE, S.C. — A former Robeson County resident and her boyfriend have been charged with homicide by child abuse in the death of the woman’s 3-year-old daughter.

Atelia Hunt, 25, of Bennettsville, was charged on Thursday with unlawful neglect of a child, but a preliminary autopsy on 3-year-old Edna Trinity Mozzel Hunt led investigators to upgrade the charges, Bennettsville police said. Hunt, who used to live in Maxton, is being held at the Marlboro County detention center.

Police said Hunt took Edna to the Marlboro Park Hospital on Thursday after the child’s heart had stopped beating. Officers were sent to the hospital after an examination of the toddler’s body revealed that the child had been abused for some time.

Bennettsville police Lt. Larry Turner said the child had significant bruising around her body, and burns to the vaginal area and buttocks. The girl’s body was taken to the Medical University of South Carolina for an autopsy to determine what killed her.

Hunt’s boyfriend, 29-year-old Alexander “Mike” Huckabee Jr., has also been arrested, and was being held at the Marlboro County detention center. He faces the same charges.

The case remains under investigation by Bennettsville police and the State Law Enforcement Division.

Edna Hunt’s great-aunt, Betty Jane Hunt, of Lumberton, said she learned of the girl’s death Friday morning when a relative called her about relaying the news to Edna’s father, Willie Keith Hunt Jr.

“Another family member was asking me to get up with our nephew, ‘Little Keith’ … and let him know his daughter was dead,” Hunt said. “They said that she had stopped breathing, that she was having a hard time breathing and the mother took her to the bedroom to lay her down, went back to check on her and she had stopped breathing.”

Hunt said Atelia and Willie grew up in Maxton, went to high school together and are married. Atelia recently moved to Bennettsville with Edna and the couple’s other daughter, 6-year-old Shania, she said.

“I think somewhere there had been a report of child abuse. When they did an investigation on the mother, they dismissed the charges against her,” Hunt said. “They found no neglect, no abuse charges against the mother. It went to court for visitation and custody for the father, and the court system failed him and gave the mother custody of the children.”

Hunt said the court system in Robeson County “failed” Edna as well as her father.

“Sometimes what one person might think is best for a child … turns out to be the worst thing possible,” she said. “My nephew pleaded. He pleaded with the court system, he pleaded with the people that had power over giving out custody. All he wanted was his children, and to protect his children. That’s all he wanted.”

Hunt said she’s seen her nephew every day since Edna died, and described him as “standing in mid-air, lost in space.”

“This is his child,” she said. “This is his baby.”


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