RIDGEVILLE, SC (WCSC) - The stepmother of a Ridgeville woman charged in the death of her 16-month-old baby testified Tuesday for the prosecution, claiming her stepdaughter Googled how to have patience with a child before the boy died.
Amber Bracci, who is charged in connection with the 2011 death of her son, Rowan, looked at a photo of her with her child as her stepmother was on the stand.
Christina Bracci said she has been stepmother to Amber Bracci for 22 years. She described Rowan as a happy, healthy 16-month-old before his fatal injury. She said she learned of Rowan's injury when Amber called her and told her something was wrong. When Christina arrived at Amber's home, she said she found Amber holding Rowan, who appeared limp and lethargic. Christina said Amber called 911, but that her home was not on the map, so Amber had to guide paramedics to the home.
Earlier, a former MUSC social worker testified the state's Department of Social Services was called to the hospital when the explanation Bracci gave doctors treating her son didn't match up to the toddler's injuries. The former social worker said she met with Bracci at the hospital, and testified Bracci said she assumed Rowan was having a bad dream when he was moaning and groaning. By then, she said Rowan wasn't expected to live more than 48 hours.
Christina testified Amber and her then-boyfriend, John Weaver, had been dating for about three months at the time of Rowan's death. She said Weaver had been talking about moving in, but said that when she returned to Amber's home after Rowan was hospitalized, all of Weaver's belongings were gone.
Christina also testified she had seen Amber "pop Rowan's hand," but had never seen her abuse him.
A former Dorchester County Sheriff's crime scene investigator who collected evidence from Bracci's home said eight items were removed from Rowan's crib, including blankets and a teething ring.
Also, an emergency room doctor said the boy had blood in his retinas which he said was evidence of physical abuse or trauma. Dr. Brock Helms said Rowan was unresponsive at the hospital and that doctors did everything they could do.
"On a coma scale rating, Rowan showed a three, essentially a dead person," Helms said. "Fifteen is healthy, walking, talking."
The Dorchester County Coroner's Office said at the time the baby died as a result of homicide after sustaining a closed head injury at the hands of another person or persons.
The forensic pathologist who performed the autopsy said he died from a "non-accidental brain injury."
Late Tuesday afternoon, the jury viewed autopsy photos of the toddler.