Originally created 03/16/04

Baby's wounds dispute story

AIKEN - The death of a 4-week-old Aiken boy is being investigated as a homicide after an autopsy showed the infant died of massive internal injuries that were inconsistent with the story his mother told police, authorities said Monday.

Raymond Pulliam was taken to Medical College of Georgia Hospital at about 7 p.m. Friday.

He died of internal bleeding early Saturday afternoon, Aiken County Chief Deputy Coroner Tim Carlton said.

Mr. Carlton said the infant's mother, April Pulliam, of the 100 block of Sumter Street, told authorities her 2-year-old son struck the infant in the abdomen with a vase.

But the serious injuries found after the child's death - including broken ribs and severe lacerations to the liver and one kidney - were inconsistent with that story, he said.

"That's my opinion, given the amount of damage to the liver," Mr. Carlton said. "Typically, we see that amount of damage in an automobile accident."

As of Monday evening, no charges had been filed, said Aiken Department of Public Safety Sgt. David Turno. He refused to identify those connected to the case, including the man who was baby-sitting the infant at the time he was injured.

"We're treating this as a homicide - aggressively," Sgt. Turno said.

Mr. Carlton said Ms. Pulliam was shopping at the time her newborn son was injured. Odell Felder, the boyfriend of one of Mrs. Pulliam's friends, was watching the infant and his 2-year-old brother at the time of the injury, he said. An older daughter was not at home at the time.

Mr. Felder called for an ambulance when the child stopped breathing, Mr. Carlton said. The infant was taken to Medical College of Georgia Hospital, where a public safety officer contacted Aiken police because the newborn showed signs of child abuse, Mr. Carlton said. After stabilizing overnight, the boy died at about 1:40 p.m. Saturday, he said.

Ray Scott, the chief investigator of the Aiken Department of Public Safety, is heading up the homicide investigation, Capt. Wendell Hall said. Investigators have interviewed the mother and the baby sitter and will eventually talk to "anybody else who has had contact with the child."

"We haven't ruled out anything," Capt. Hall said. "We're still very closely looking at all aspects of this."

Ms. Pulliam did make a brief appearance Monday before an Aiken County family court judge for a probable cause hearing requested by the South Carolina Department of Social Services. Aiken County's social services director, Austin Scott, would not say whether the hearing was called so his department could take custody of Ms. Pulliam's other two children.

"That's a reasonable assumption to make, but I can neither confirm nor deny it," Mr. Scott said.

Neighbors in the Stoney Homes public housing units just south of Schofield Middle School said Ms. Pulliam moved to Sumter Street from Gloverville about a year ago. Shirley Hall, her neighbor, said Ms. Pulliam works in a fast-food restaurant and says little to neighbors.

Ms. Hall said Mr. Felder denied hurting the newborn when she spoke to him early Monday afternoon.

"No way in the world he'd do anything to hurt that baby," Ms. Hall said.

Reach Jim Nesbitt at (803) 648-1395 or jim.nesbitt@augustachronicle.com.


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