‘Her little blue eyes danced and danced’

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Soren Chilson’s family tries to make sense of their loss

For Sarah Chilson-Cole, knowing is one thing.


Just like the rest of her family, this mother of four has come to the sad realization that her niece, 5-year-old Soren Chilson, is tragically gone. She has to come to grips with that. 

But understanding why the girl with her “daddy’s blue eyes” was allegedly beaten to death by her mom’s boyfriend, 27-year-old Bryan Phillip Gleason, early Tuesday, March 5, is something she just can’t comprehend. Chilson-Cole said she keeps asking herself the same simple, direct one-word question.


“I’m sorry, but I  just don’t get it...this is just crazy,” Chilson-Cole said. “Soren was a treasure treated like a piece of trash.”    

After losing her mom to cancer in September, and her brother and Soren’s dad, Jeremy Chilson, in December, Chilson-Cole said the rain in her family’s world keeps falling. 

“Gosh, it hurts,” she said. “This should’ve never happened. Her little blue eyes just danced and danced.” 

Chilson-Cole said the only thing she does understand at this point is that her family has been ripped apart and they need to be lifted up. 

“Please ask all the churches to pray for us in the next few days to help us make some sense out of this,” Chilson-Cole said.

Chilson-Cole, whose family now lives in the town of Springdale on the outskirts of Columbia, said when they lived here, Soren was at their McIlwain Road home just about every day.

“That’s no exaggeration, either,” Soren’s aunt said. “Soren was a vivacious firecracker, beyond smart and so intuitive. She picked up on things much quicker than most kids her age. This was a little girl who had the gumption to go far, which is why the whole thing is so crazy. 

“It just doesn’t make any sense,” she said. “I just don’t know what else to say about it. I don’t have anything else.” 

After Gleason called 911, Soren was found unresponsive in a bathroom just before 12:45 a.m. Tuesday in the home (1791 Craig Farm Road) he shared with the girl’s mother.

According to the sheriff’s office, the mother was at work and Gleason was home alone with Soren.

Paramedics took the youngster to Springs Memorial Hospital, where she died. Authorities started looking into her death after finding her injuries suspicious.

Lancaster County Coroner Mike Morris said Thursday that preliminary autopsy results performed early Tuesday showed Soren died from blunt force trauma to the head. 

“Right now, that’s pretty much all we know,” Morris said. “We’re still waiting on the rest of the results. That should take about four weeks.”

Based on those preliminary findings, along with physical evidence gathered at the scene, and investigators’ interviews of Gleason, he was arrested Tuesday afternoon and charged with homicide by child abuse.

Gleason appeared before a county magistrate on Wednesday and his bond was denied. He remains jailed at the Lancaster County Detention Center. 

Sixth Circuit Solicitor Doug Barfield said Thursday, if convicted, Gleason could spend anywhere from 20 years to life in prison.

Soren’s funeral is 2 p.m. today, March 8, at Antioch Baptist Church, 3052 Taxahaw Road.


Contact copy editor Gregory A. Summers at (803) 283-1156