South Carolina baby’s death investigation extends north into Richmond County

By: Staff report

ROCKINGHAM — Investigators from South Carolina executed a search warrant Thursday in Richmond County in relation to the death of an 11-month-old girl whose mother is accused of lying about her abduction.

Officers with the Chesterfield County Sheriff’s Office, S.C. State Law Enforcement Division and FBI were searching a home that 19-year-old Breanne Denise Lewis, the child’s mother, was currently renting, according to a spokesman for the sheriff’s office.

WSOC-TV reports deputies, along with a Department of Social Services caseworker, also searched the South Carolina home, saying they were concerned about the amount of food in the house and that the child looked small for her age.

Documents show Lewis called 911 at 1:39 p.m. Tuesday to report that her baby, Harlee Lane Lewis, had been taken from her as she went to the mailbox on Daisy Lewis Lane.

Lewis originally told the dispatcher that a white man driving a tan or gold SUV pulled up, got out and made sexual advances on her. She said the man then started hitting her in the face, causing her to fall down and nearly pass out, took the baby girl and started driving to North Carolina, documents show. She told the dispatcher that her daughter was wearing a purple onesie and gave her name and date of birth.

While the dispatcher was still on the phone with Lewis, deputies began driving around the county looking for the vehicle described — with the Anson County Sheriff’s Office being alerted — and two investigators went to the scene, according to the incident report.

Lewis told the investigators that someone from the Laurinburg area was involved. Officers in Scotland County were alerted and given a description of the vehicle. Meanwhile, Sheriff Jay Brooks and the investigators began working to put out an Amber Alert and other deputies scoured the streets for homes with surveillance cameras, hoping to find video of the SUV passing by.

Investigators continued to question Lewis and say her story began to change. She eventually admitted to lying about the assault and kidnapping and said the bruising on her face was the result of a recent wreck, according to the sheriff’s office.

While searching near the scene, deputies found the body of a child — later identified as Harlee — wrapped in a bag and hidden inside a diaper box about 1,000 yards from the home. They say she had probably been dead about six hours before the 911 call was made.

“A police officer who sees a dead child never forgets that face,” Brooks said, holding back tears, during a press conference Thursday morning. “How do you put a dead child in a garbage bag and just throw it away?”

Lewis is facing felony charges of giving false information to law enforcement; desecration or removal of human remains; and destroying, altering, concealing or tampering with physical evidence. Her bond was set Thursday morning for $71,000. Lewis is being held on suicide watch at the Chesterfield County Detention Centerand the sheriff is requesting a mental evaluation, according to WSOC.

The case is still under investigation and the sheriff says it could still be ruled an accidental death.

An autopsy was performed in Newberry, South Carolina, on Wednesday and deputies say preliminary results showed no signs of trauma. Other results will take longer.

According to her obituary, Harlee would have turned a year old next Monday.

A candle-light vigil for Harlee has been scheduled for 6-7 p.m., Wednesday June 6 at the Chesterfield County Courthouse, 200 Main St., Chesterfield.

All defendants facing criminal charges are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.


Staff report