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Boys, Mother Charged in Death

October 15, 1998

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) _ A woman and her two young sons have been charged in the fatal beating of the woman’s 6-year-old niece, who was apparently being punished for missing her stop on the school bus.

Pamela Smith, the aunt and legal guardian of Charnell Smith, was arrested after paramedics brought the little girl to the hospital unconscious and brain dead. Charnell died Friday night.

Ms. Smith, 34, told police Charnell fell and hit her head against a table while she was being beaten with a belt for not coming directly home from school.

Ms. Smith’s two sons, ages 11 and 13, were arrested Wednesday and charged with participating in the beating. Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott said it was possible they would be tried as adults.

``This little girl went through hell,″ Lott said. ``This is probably one of the worst cases of child abuse I’ve seen in the 23 years I’ve been a cop.″

Charnell got off the school bus at the wrong stop last Thursday and followed a friend home to a nearby apartment complex, sheriff’s Lt. Joseph Pellicci said. Residents there called police, who contacted Ms. Smith and gave her the child.

An autopsy showed Charnell had been abused for some time, Coroner Frank Barron said. Lott said there was no evidence to support Ms. Smith’s claim that the child fell into a table.

Ms. Smith said she tried to revive the girl and then threw a glass of water on her before calling paramedics.

She was charged with murder and homicide by child abuse. Her sons are charged with first-degree lynching, or mob violence that results in death. The 13-year-old boy was jailed; juvenile authorities took custody of the 11-year-old.

Ms. Smith had won custody of Charnell and her three sisters, who had been taken from their mother in 1996 for physical neglect, Department of Social Services spokesman Jerry Adams said.