Police: Toddler hanged by ankles in closet, beaten

Shakera Suncelaree Wright, 18 (Source: Cashbond)
Shakera Suncelaree Wright, 18 (Source: Cashbond)

NORTH CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Police arrested a teenage mother and three of her friends after ICU doctors determined the woman's child had been physically abused and she was unable to provide an explanation for the injuries.

The child remains hospitalized in critical condition and has been placed in the custody of the Department of Social Services, police said.

Shakera Suncelaree Wright, 18, of Charleston and Tyrek Varnes, 16, of North Charleston along with a 14-year-old and a 15-year-old were all charged with infliction or allowing infliction to great bodily injury to a child. Varnes was charged as an adult.

In bond court Thursday night, investigators revealed that the boy had been strung up by his ankles and beaten. Wright told investigators the incident happened Monday night, but she didn't seek medical attention until the following morning, according to court documents.

The felony charge carries a 20-year sentence if they are convicted, said North Charleston Police PIO Spencer Pryor.

[Listen to the 911 call. (mp3)]

According to the incident report, Wright told DSS officials and a Medical University Hospital social worker she was visiting Varnes at his Ashley Shores apartment Monday night. The following morning, Wright left for school leaving her child with Varnes and two of his friends.

The three teens were "play wrestling" with the victim, the report stated. She made a boxing motion with both fists and indicated they were hitting the child in the chest and stomach. Wright told the DSS official she stopped it when she thought the boys were getting too rough.

According to the affidavit, Varnes admitted that he repeatedly hit the child. He also said he punched him with a closed fist, hung him upside-down in a closet by strapping a belt around his ankles, dropped him on the ground and then lifted the infant above his head and slammed him onto a bed.

Varnes told investigators it was possible the boy hit his head on a table.

However, Wright told the victim's grandmother she didn't know how the child had sustained the injuries and speculated the baby may have fallen, the report stated.

A forensic pediatrician at Medical University Hospital also interviewed Wright before police and DSS were called. According to his report, Wright said she put her child in bed with Varnes and went to bed in an adjoining room with Varnes' twin sister Monday night.

The following morning, she said Varnes' mother woke him up and he left for school. It was then Wright noticed her child was not playful and did not look well. According to her, he "looked like he wanted to die," she told the ICU doctor.

After several attempts to make the child more alert, Wright called EMS. The doctor noted in his report that the child arrived at the ER shortly after 10 a.m. Tuesday in respiratory distress.

At 11:30 a.m., the child was moved to the Intensive Care Unit where doctors noted bruising and swelling on the boy's chest, back and abdomen.

A CT scan revealed five rib fractures, air and blood in his thorax, multiple lacerations of his liver, spleen and pancreas. He was also in shock, the attending doctor stated in his report. The scans also showed the boy had fractured his skull at some point, but could not determine when that injury happened.

At that point, hospital officials called DSS and police, the report shows.

The skull fracture was corroborated by Wright's statement to police in which she said her child had been struck by Varnes when he stayed at the Ashley Shores apartment in the past.

Wright was issued a $40,000 bond Wednesday. Thursday, Varnes' bond was set at $80,000. Both juveniles are in the custody of the Department of Juvenile Justice, Pryor said.  

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