SC mom told police child found dead in dresser was in Union County, NC, detective says

A Rock Hill woman told police her 4-year-old daughter found dead in a dresser was in Union County, North Carolina, when they went to check on the child in 2020, detectives testified Tuesday

More than three years after the disabled special needs girl was found dead, the trial against her mother, Jackleen “Jackie” Mullen, 26, began Tuesday in the Moss Justice Center in York. Mullen faces charges of murder and homicide by child abuse in the death of 4-year-old India Heavenly Lacey Martin, who was found dead in a dresser drawer in her mother’s bedroom in late May 2020.

Mullen also is charged with aiding and abetting homicide by child abuse.

Mullen has pleaded not guilty and has not been convicted of any crime in connection to her daughter’s death.

Opening statements from prosecutors, defense

Prosecutors said in opening arguments India was a special needs child who could not talk or walk without help, and often needed a feeding tube. She was beaten and then died while in the care of her mother and her mother’s boyfriend Audrevious Williams, prosecutor Erin Joyner said in opening statements.

One of Mullen’s defense lawyers, Brian Shealey of Columbia, said in opening statements jurors will have to decide whether to believe Mullen’s boyfriend, who is also was charged with homicide by child abuse after the child was found dead.

Williams is not on trial this week, but he’s expected to testify for prosecutors against Mullen, Shealey said in court.

Williams gave several conflicting statements to law enforcement after the death was discovered, Shealey said.

Mullen and Williams lived together in 2020 at the time the child was found dead, said Shealey, the defense lawyer. Williams is not the father of India Martin, officials said in court.

The trial continues

The trial in front of Judge Eugene Griffith, a visiting judge from Newberry, could last several days. Twelve jurors and two alternates were picked Tuesday morning.

Mullen could face life in prison if convicted of murder or homicide by child abuse.

The first witness in the trial, York County Sheriff’s Office Detective Devin Askew, testified Tuesday that Mullen told law enforcement in May 2020 India was in Union County, North Carolina, with relatives before the body was found in the dresser.

Askew said investigators determined in May 2020 India was not in North Carolina. They initially were called about the case to investigate the whereabouts of the child and her welfare, Askew said.

Askew said under cross-examination from Mullen’s defense lawyer that Mullen’s boyfriend at the time also allegedly told law enforcement the child was in North Carolina.