HARTSVILLE, SC (WMBF) – Two Hartsville residents are behind bars for child neglect after drug tests for them and two children came back positive, according to documents from the State Law Enforcement Division. The tests were done after one of the children, a 2-month-old, died on February 22, Darlington County Sheriff Wayne Byrd confirmed.
Malinda LaShawn Phillips, 22, and Sharkill Robinson, 33, were each charged with two counts of unlawful neglect of a child, a felony that carries a penalty upon conviction of up to 10 years in prison, a fine, or both, according to a SLED news release.
The investigation began on February 22 after the 2-month-old child died, according to Sheriff Wayne Byrd. The 1-year-old child is still alive.
According to arrest warrants, Phillips and Robinson put the children at an unreasonable risk of harm, based on the positive drug screens for the children and the suspects. The drug tests that confirmed the children were exposed to drugs in their home did not come back until Monday, which led to their arrests, Sheriff Byrd said.
"Once you discover there is a child fatality and drugs may be involved, of course SLED investigates all child fatalities. That led to additional investigation in checking the other child and the parents and that's where the charges stemmed from. Whether it's some kind of intentional act or neglect or bad parenting, exactly what went on (is) where the investigation comes in to try and find out," said Byrd.
Chrystal Hartis grew up with Phillips and lived right next door to the family.
"Cop cars everywhere. We just didn't know what was going on," Hartis said. "I was wanting to go see her so bad and I just didn't know what to say. I couldn't find the words to tell her."
"I've always felt like she would be a great mom. I mean, we grew up together. She never seemed like the type of person that would harm her kids or do anything to harm them," Hartis said.
Phillips and Robinson were booked at the Darlington County Detention Center, the SLED release states. At Tuesday's bond hearing, a $40,000 surety bond each was given for both the suspects. They are due to appear in general session court at the end of May.