Toddler hugged to death, sheriff says

A man accused of hugging a toddler to death was charged with involuntary manslaughter — more than a year after the boy died — the Orangeburg County sheriff said Wednesday.

Robert Christian Kemp, 26, of Columbia, S.C., was arrested Tuesday and released from custody Wednesday on $10,000 bond in the June 27, 2013, death of Jaylen Harris here, Sheriff Leroy Ravenell said. Ravenell did not say why more than a year went by before charges were filed.

Kemp is accused of killing the 14-month-old “by giving him a bear hug, squeezing the victim so tight that the victim stopped breathing as a result,” according to an arrest warrant. Jaylen died of asphyxiation.

Kemp told deputies he was playing with Jaylen, who had been left in his care, when the boy started to rub his eyes like he was tired. So he put the toddler in his crib on his back with his bottle, according to an incident report.

He then went to the kitchen to do some chores and realized he hadn’t heard the boy in a while. Kemp went back into the bedroom and noticed the toddler on his stomach, unconscious with his hands balled into fists, according to the report.

Jaylen did not respond to cardio-pulmonary resuscitation.

If convicted, Kemp faces up to five years in prison.

After Jaylen died, his family sought donations for the child’s funeral costs at; they stopped the campaign four days before his services.

“Baby Jaylen Harris passed away in his sleep of natural causes. He was 14 months old. He was the sweetest, happiest baby you would ever meet. He was a blessing and a joy to this family,” family members wrote on the website at the time.

Neither Kemp nor Jaylen’s mother could be reached for comment.

Contributing: The Associated Press

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