Teen ruled responsible for toddler's death, arrested

Alicia Stepp (Source: CCDC)
Alicia Stepp (Source: CCDC)
Coroner Wooten addresses the media in early 2011.
Coroner Wooten addresses the media in early 2011.
The entrance to Evanston Mobile Home Park, where Hughes lived. (Source: Deja Knight)
The entrance to Evanston Mobile Home Park, where Hughes lived. (Source: Deja Knight)
A picture of Ginny Hughes. (Source: Facebook)
A picture of Ginny Hughes. (Source: Facebook)

NORTH CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - The babysitter a coroner's inquest jury ruled was responsible for a child's death was arrested Saturday morning.

The inquest jury handed down their verdict Friday night stating Alicia Stepp, 17, caused the death of 2-year-old Ginny Hughes by circumstances of extreme indifference.

Stepp was granted a $100,000 bond Saturday.  She is charged with homicide by child abuse.

Doctors and paramedics testified on Friday that Hughes, who died at the Medical University of South Carolina on July 4, was found with a bite mark on her body and bruising around the mouth and forehead.

One doctor testified that Hughes was harmed by someone in a way that cut off oxygen to her system.

Doctors said they were not sure if the bite mark found on Hughes came from an animal or human. Medical officials say that they noticed that Hughes' behavior had changed during regular doctor appointments.

Doctors testified that Hughes was very shy and not talking as much as she used to.

According to medical officials, Hughes started having unexplained seizures and brain trauma in April. Following an ER visit on April 29, DSS workers took Hughes and her siblings into custody after deeming her home life as unstable.

The inquest was held by Charleston County Coroner Rae Wooten at the Lonnie Hamilton III Public Services Building for most of the day on Friday.

Wooten said Hughes died from a noxic brain injury, meaning a lack of oxygen to the brain.

According to a North Charleston Police Department incident report, officers arrived at Hughes' home on Brossy Circle around 1 p.m. on July 2 to find the child lying on the floor, unresponsive. The report states Hughes' eyes were open and her skin was partially blue.

According to the report, the toddler suffered from a genetic disorder that resulted in her not having full development of her legs from the knee down.

Hughes, along with her 3-month-old and 3-year-old siblings, were being watched by Stepp, who told police she cared for them while their mother worked at Waffle House.

When asked about what happened, the babysitter said Hughes told her she was sleepy so she took her into the bedroom to lie down. About 20 minutes later, Stepp said she returned to check on Ginny, and discovered she was unresponsive, although she was still warm.

At that point, Steppsaid she realized the toddler wasn't breathing, so she first called the child's mother, and then called 911.

An officer on scene noted slight bruising on the arm and torso of Hughes, and the babysitter explained Ginny often attempted to walk and would fall due to her birth defect. The babysitter also told police Hughes "had been suffering with seizures, infections, and dehydration."

Another incident report from May 10 indicates a complainant call police because she was concerned about possible child abuse. The complainant told North Charleston police that on April 29, around 8 p.m., the toddler was taken to Trident Medical Center, and then MUSC Pediatric Hospital, for treatment of seizures.

Tests at MUSC revealed brain and retinal hemorrhages on the child. The child was released short time later and after the complainant contacted the Department of Social Services, Hughes was taken into protective custody.

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