ROCK HILL, S.C. (WBTV) - A 34-year-old father will spend the next 23 years in prison for allegedly beating his son to death and trying to cover it up to police.
Bruce Williams, 34, pleaded guilty to homicide by child abuse in York County court Tuesday morning.
He was originally charged with three counts of unlawful neglect toward a child, murder and homicide by child abuse. Represented by Public Defender Harry Dest, he entered an Alford plea, meaning he recognizes there is enough evidence to find him guilty, but he is not admitting guilt.
The Solicitor’s Office and the Public Defender’s Office agreed to a negotiated sentence of 23 years. He faced 20 years to life in prison for the charge.
According to Deputy Solicitor Willy Thompson, Rock Hill Police responded to a house on Williams Street in Rock Hill on April 24, 2018 regarding an unresponsive 3-year-old.
Detective Kristopher Quate has been investigating child abuse cases for the department for five years.
“I have seen the most sacred, earthly bonds of relationships violated during this time,” Quate said in court. “On April 24, 2018 I observed results of one such relationship.”
Thompson says an autopsy report identified the cause of death for 3-year-old Miguel Williams as full body blunt force trauma. It took Thompson nearly two minutes to list the injuries the child suffered including fractured ribs, elbows, and internal bleeding.
“I stepped into the ambulance to see Miguel Williams’ lifeless body on a stretcher. Miguel was a small 3-year-old who was covered in bruises from head to toe,” Quate said.
According to police, Miguel’s parents Lakeisha Jackson and Bruce Williams told them the child was found floating in a bathtub at a hotel on Riverview Road in Rock Hill. They told police they brought the child to an acquaintance’s house because they thought he would be okay, and they didn’t want to involve the Department of Social Services.
But prosecutors determined there was no accident in the bathtub. They say Miguel’s siblings told investigators in a forensic interview that they witnessed the beating at the hotel which led to Miguel’s death.
Then, prosecutors say, Williams and Jackson waited hours to call 911.
“Miguel would lie lifeless while Miguel’s parents drank alcohol,” Quate said.
Thompson told the courtroom that Williams admitting to drinking liquor and taking a large amount of Xanax to the point where he blacked out. Williams’ attorneys told the court he admits to wrongdoing, but not to beating his son.
“The use of alcohol and drugs has a tremendous, pernicious effect on society and this is another example of that. But I do know that our system also believes in redemption and rehabilitation,” Public Defender Harry Dest said.
Quate described a history of abuse documented in DSS records and photographs. Quate says shortly after birth, Lakeisha Jackson lost custody of Miguel. Custody was granted to Bruce Williams, even though he didn’t attend any custody hearings. For a brief period, Miguel stayed with foster parents and appeared to be happy. Quate says Miguel’s foster parents showed him pictures of the boy smiling, but still wearing a cast from abuse prior to his time in foster care.
“Miguel’s life and now death were an inconvenience to his parents,” Quate said. “The overwhelming majority of Miguel’s life was spent without a voice or without an advocate. Today, Miguel’s advocate is justice and it is my sincere hope that justice is served.”
Judge William McKinnon accepted the negotiated sentence of 23 years.
“Given what the state has said about the difficulties of trying two parents or two caregivers when they both accuse each other of being responsible for what happened, I am going to accept the plea,” McKinnon said in court.
Lakeisha Jackson remains in the York County Detention Center without bond. Deputy Solicitor Willy Thompson says they are working with her defense team to get a court date scheduled soon.