Originally created 01/06/01

Child abuse suspect faces new charge



AIKEN - More allegations of violence surfaced Friday against a New Ellenton man charged in the beating death of his girlfriend's toddler.

Roy Clark Morris Jr., 25, was served a warrant Friday for criminal domestic violence. He is accused of choking his live-in girlfriend, Shannon Weeks, on Dec. 23. Ms. Weeks had red marks on her neck after the alleged assault.

When the fight occurred, police say Ms. Weeks, who is also charged in the death of her daughter, told an investigating officer that her boyfriend's name was William Eason, the name of Mr. Morris' deceased brother. Mr. Morris was originally charged under that name, but officers realized the mistake and corrected the warrant. Ms. Weeks was subsequently charged with providing false information to police.

That incident took place in the same home on Dogwood Avenue in New Ellenton where Ms. Weeks' daughter was fatally injured Tuesday, police say.

Ms. Weeks, 22, and Mr. Morris are both charged with homicide by child abuse in the death of Brittany Weeks, the 15-month-old daughter of Ms. Weeks. Brittany died after her brain was pierced by a piece of her shattered skull.

Investigators said Mr. Morris caused the fatal blow to the girl on Tuesday and Ms. Weeks knew about it. Ms. Weeks called 911, and Brittany was rushed to the Medical College of Georgia, where she died Wednesday morning.

A judge denied bond for the couple Thursday, meaning Ms. Weeks will not likely attend her daughter's funeral, set for 4 p.m. today at Clearwater Branch Baptist Church. The Sheriff's Office would have to agree to escort her to the funeral, and jail officials said she has not made that request.

Mr. Morris and Ms. Weeks applied for public defenders Friday and were granted the request after filling out financial disclosure forms.

The Weeks family had been previously investigated by the Department of Social Services for reports of child abuse and neglect, but no action had been taken against the adults.

A spokesman for DSS said the toddler was "known to the system," which includes child welfare and protective services. The agency did have contact with the child's family this spring because of a report of child abuse. DSS spokesman Jerry Adams said the child's mother was not involved in that incident.

Aiken County Coroner Sue Townsend said Friday that Brittany's death is tragic, but she said Aiken County has come a long way from the days when multiple toddlers were dying. She said more than a dozen children died in a short time period in the late 1980s and early 1990s, including some that were in DSS custody.

"Clearly, we have a problem in this family, and sadly, it took a death to bring it to a head," she said. "I wish more than anything that we would never have another case like this."

The toddler's death is the second of its kind within a two-year span in Aiken County. In April 1999, 15-month-old Victoria Cowart died from a violent beating, police said. The baby's mother, Rebecca Cowart, and the mother's live-in boyfriend, Michael Smith, are awaiting trial on charges of homicide by child abuse.

Still, the coroner says the county's problem with child abuse and homicide is not what it once was.

"I just always believe there's room for growth, and we strive every day to do a little bit better. Sad to say, we don't have it perfect," Mrs. Townsend said."As long as people are going to have children, there's going to be someone out there who's not going to take care of them the way they should."

Reach Greg Rickabaugh at (803) 648-1395.