2 arrested in toddler’s murder, bond denied

Brantley Smith

A child’s mother and her boyfriend are being held in the Johnson Detention Center without bond after being charged in the beating death of her 2-year-old son Saturday morning on Country Lane in Clinton.

Jessica Blake Smith, the child’s mother, and her boyfriend, William Ryan Looper, both face multiple charges stemming from their arrests.

Laurens County Sheriff’s Office deputies arrived at the residence on Country Lane at 2:30 Saturday morning after a 9-1-1 call about an unresponsive child. They found the body of 2-year-old Brantley Smith severely beaten with injuries all over his body, according to the LCSO. A report from the LCSO also said the child had been brutally molested sexually before his death.

Looper is charged with murder, criminal sexual conduct with a minor (first degree) and two counts of unlawful conduct toward a child. Jessica Smith, 27, is charged with homicide by child abuse and two counts of unlawful conduct toward a child.

Looper, 27, has a criminal record and has served jail time, but was not on the sex-offender registry, said Laurens County Sheriff Don Reynolds, adding that his previous crimes included larceny, burglary and breaking and entering.

William Ryan Looper, left, and Jessica Smith

“Unfortunately, I have had to work many homicide cases over the years, some of which have involved children,” said veteran LCSO Capt. Robert Wilkie. “However, this by far was the worst thing I’ve ever seen. This incident brought tears to the eyes of our investigators. What these individuals did to this child is unimaginable.”

Reynolds said he would like to see both suspects convicted and locked away forever.

“These animals, who are possessed with pure evil, have no place in our society,” Reynolds said. “I’m sure God has a place for these broken individuals as he does for these precious children.”

The victim’s two older brothers, ages 6 and 7, were also at the residence and were transported to a hospital for examination and were OK, Reynolds said.

A vigil organized for Brantley Smith by the LCSO and the community-activist organization Children Put Down Your Guns was held Sunday evening at the Laurens County Sheriff’s Office. There, toys were donated and collected for his two older brothers.

“It’s horrendous,” Reynolds said of the murder. “(Eighth Circuit Solicitor David Stumbo) and I talked, and we’re on a path to ensure that things are followed and done in a manner so that this child will get his justice.”

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