Judge grants bond to Gleason

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Suspect in child’s death also has to wear GPS

By Jesef Williams

There will be no prom night. No college. Not even a first day of school.


Wanda Chilson listed those events as signature moments her step-granddaughter will never experience. It’s hard for her to cope with the loss of a 5-year-old who was “full of sweetness and goodness.”

That child – Soren Victoria Chilson – died March 5 as a result of what authorities say was head trauma.

Soren’s accused killer – Phillip Bryan Gleason – was given a $150,000 surety bond Friday morning, March 22, in a Lancaster County General Sessions courtroom. He also has to wear a GPS monitoring device and is not allowed to have direct contact with the family of Soren’s father.

S.C. Circuit Court  Judge Brooks Goldsmith presided over the bond hearing, which Gleason had requested. He has been jailed at the Lancaster County Detention Center ever since his arrest earlier this month.

Chilson, who is the stepmother of Soren’s late father, said she was representing the girl’s family Friday morning. She asked that bond be denied.

“I am speaking on behalf of a young girl who had no chance to fight off a monster,” Chilson said, referring to Gleason.

Incident details

Authorities said Gleason, 27, is the boyfriend of Soren’s mother. They lived together at 1791 Craig Farm Road.

Gleason was home alone with Soren the night of March 4 when Gleason said the girl became unruly and scratched his face, according to a recount 6th Circuit Solicitor Doug Barfield gave Goldsmith on Friday.

Gleason told authorities that Soren wasn’t feeling well and ended up in the bathroom. He said he began CPR after she collapsed. He later called 911.

Barfield said autopsy results show Soren experienced closed head injuries that occurred “within minutes and hours” before her death at Springs Memorial Hospital.

The girl suffered bruises on her face, chest, arms, legs and back. She also had a broken collar bone, Barfield said.

He said Gleason is responsible for her death.

“There’s no indication that (anybody) else intervened,” Barfield said.

Sheriff’s office staff, including investigator Jason Catoe, shared their thoughts on the case.

“In my nine years, this is one of the most brutal things I’ve ever seen,” he said.

Capt. Craig Bailey echoed Catoe’s sentiments to the judge.

“You could hardly put your hands on that body and not touch bruises,” Bailey said. “That man (Gleason) doesn’t need to walk these streets. He is dangerous.”

Gleason’s defense

Rock Hill attorney Chris Wellborn is representing Gleason.

Gleason, dressed in an orange detention center jumpsuit and shackled with chains, stood beside his lawyer. He didn’t speak during Friday’s bond hearing.

Wellborn argued for a bond for Gleason because he said his client doesn’t pose a danger to the community and isn’t a flight risk.

“My client turned himself in and did not have to be arrested,” Wellborn said about the events earlier this month. “Clearly, there’s no flight risk issue.”

Wellborn stressed that Gleason has merely been accused and that his only convictions are for a 2007 DUI charge in Texas and a 2009 traffic violation in Illinois.

He added that the injuries listed on Soren’s autopsy don’t necessary indicate that Gleason harmed her. Wellborn said Gleason noticed the girl began to swallow her tongue and that he intervened to prevent it.

“There is nothing in his past that indicates he is a danger to the community,” Wellborn said.

After hearing from Barfield and Wellborn, Goldsmith recommended Gleason be granted a $150,000 surety bond.

Wellborn asked that Gleason be required to post only 10 percent of that ($15,000), but Goldsmith ruled against that.

Gleason, who’s been charged with homicide by child abuse, is scheduled to make his next court appearance May 10, with a preliminary hearing set for June 12. Barfield said the case is expected to be presented to a grand jury June 13,

If convicted, Gleason could spend between 20 years and life in prison.


Contact reporter Jesef Williams at (803) 283-1152