UNION — A Union man who has already spent nearly two years in jail will spend the next 20 years in prison for the death of an infant.
Lashawn Brannon, 26, 254 Mt. Joy Church Road, Union, was arrested in December 2011 by the Union County Sheriff’s Office in connection with the death of nine month old Talayna Renwick of 413 Toluca St., Union. Brannon was initially charged by the sheriff’s office with murder and homicide by child abuse in Talayna’s death. Since being arrested, Brannon has been held in the Union County Jail.
On Aug. 20, Brannon pleaded guilty to attempted murder during a hearing in York before Judge John C. Hayes III. He was then scheduled to be sentenced at the November session of General Sessions Court in Union County.
By pleading guilty to attempted murder, Brannon faced the possibility of up to 30 years in prison.
On Wednesday, during a hearing in the main courtroom of the Union County Courthouse, Judge Michael Nettles of Florence, sentenced to Brannon to 25 years in prison with credit for the 698 days he has already spent in jail. Nettles also ordered that Brannon’s name be entered into the Central Registry of Child Abusers.
In handing down the sentence, Nettles said that he found the evidence presented in the case had overwhelmingly established Brannon’s guilt.
That evidence was presented by Sixteenth Circuit Deputy Solicitor John Anthony who began by presenting the fact of the events surrounding Talayna’s death and Brannon’s involvement in it.
Anthony said that on Dec. 14, 2011, Talayna had been left in Brannon’s care by her mother. He said that later in the day she received a call from Brannon telling her that Talayna had fallen off the bed several hours earlier and that now he couldn’t get her to wake up and he’d called 911. Talayna’ mother, however, arrived before emergency personnel did and took her daughter who remained unconscious to Wallace Thomson Hospital.
Due to the severity of her injuries, Talayna was airlifted to Greenville Hospital where she remained until her death on Dec. 16, 2011.
Anthony said that Talayna had suffered severe head injuries including a fractured skull, that the tissue connecting her mouth to her lip had been torn, and she had a number of bruises about her head and body. He said Talayna never regained consciousness and that the physicians handling her case had determined her death to be the result of “non-accidental head trauma.”
In addition, Anthony said the physicians told investigators that Brannon’s claim that Talayna’s injuries had been the result of her falling off a bed was not credible.
After taking a lie detector test, Anthony said Brannon changed his story, saying that Talayna had been injured when he accidentally dropped her and she hit her head on a table. Anthony said that when contacted about this, the five physicians who’d worked on Talayna said that the injuries she’d received were not consistent with those that would have resulted from a fall from a short distance.
Instead, Anthony said that given the extent of the head trauma she’d suffered and the locations and patterns of the injuries to her head, face and other areas of her body, the physicians concluded that she’d been the subject of violent, forceful and repetitive action.
Brannon was represented by attorney Eric Delaney and York Assistant Public Defender Melissa Inzerillo.
During his presentation, Delaney said that over the past two years, Brannon has consistently maintained his innocence and that he believes him. Delaney said it was the belief of the defense that Talyna’s death was the result of an accident. He said that while Brannon gave different versions of what happened, he consistently maintained Talayna had been injured in an accident.
As for his giving different versions of the incident, Delaney pointed out that Brannon has an IQ of 57 and that this had an impact on his decision-making. This included attempt to minimize his involvement in the accident, which Delaney said occurred while Brannon was reaching to pick something up and Talayna fell from his arms.
Delaney pointed out that besides calling 911 to get help for Talayan, Brannon tried to perform CPR on her even though he’d hadn’t been trained in the procedure. He said that Brannon told him that he seen it done on TV.
In presenting their case to Nettles, the defense called Dr. Donald Jason, Associate Professor of the Wake Forest School of Medicine. Jason said that he’d reviewed photos of the fracture to Talayna’s skull, describing it as a simple fracture that could have resulted from a fall. He said that after examining the evidence he’d concluded that it indicated that the child had fallen from Brannon’s arms striking her head on the table and then when she hit the floor. This, Jason said, was consistent with the final version of the incident Brannon had provided investigators.
The state then called Dr. Mary Fran Crosswell, a Forensic Pediatrician with Greenville Hospital, who’d participated in the diagnosis and treatment of Talayna. Crossell said that Talayna suffered profound brain injury that resulted in her death and that the nature of that injury was not consistent with an accident. She said that, along with other injuries such as the tearing of the tissue connecting the child’s mouth with her lip and the bruising about her body was not the result of accidental trauma.
Delaney also pointed out that Brannon was not only babysitting Talayna, but also several children, many of whom were members of his family. He said that the women in Brannon’s family who have children have said they would let him babysit for them now.
Brannon’s aunt, Angela Marie Fulton, spoke during the hearing on behalf of her nephew, but was overcome by emotion and had to have her statement read to the court by Inzerillo.
In her statement, Fulton said that when she let Brannon babysit her son each time she told him to spank the boy if he misbehaved but that he never would. She said Brannon loved children and loved babysitting and that he’d loved Talayna like she was his own child.
Brannon’s uncle Alonzo Varner, that he believed what happened to Talayna was an accident and asked the court for mercy. He also said that his nephew love children, describing him as still being a kid.
The court heard from Talayna’s father, Teddy Renwick, and her mother, Nikia Swinton, who spoke about the pain and grief their families have been through since Talayna’s death. Renwick said that the case has stretched out for a long time and that he hoped the court could see where Talayna’s family was coming from. He said that no amout of time the court could sentence Brannon too would be enough.
Swinton told the court that she had three other children who don’t understand why they lost their sister. She said “the emptiness of not having my child I will have to deal with the rest of my life. He (Brannon) should pay for what he’s done.”
Editor Charles Warner can be reached at 864-427-1234, ext. 14, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.