A Purple Heart recipient from South Carolina entered a guilty plea for the literal hand he had in his girlfriend’s daughter’s demise as he awaits the birth of his second child.
Lancaster resident Phillip Gleason was sentenced on Tuesday, January 31, to 38 years in prison for the 2013 beating death of 5-year-old Soren Gleason, The Charlotte Reporter explains. According to police reports, little Soren succumbed to injuries that she incurred through several weeks of beatings from the military vet, while her mother, April Victoria Gleason, not only allowed the abuse to continue but at times, joked about the matter in text messages that she sent to her husband’s cell phone.
In earlier court proceedings, Sixth Circuit solicitor Randy Newman stated that Phillip was often in charge of watching over Soren while his wife worked. During these times, he would often strike the little girl with his bare hands, all across her head and body, and send captures of his actions in both photo and video form to April, where they would then joke about how Soren was “suffering [his harsh] rules.”
On March 5, the night of Soren’s death, Gleason called 911 and expressed that Soren had been coughing up blood throughout the day before she suddenly began seizing. When first responders arrived, they took notice of a mass of bruises that covered the young girl’s body before transferring her to Springs Memorial Hospital, where she later passed away. An autopsy officially relayed her cause of death as a combination of blunt force trauma and bleeding on the brain by way of a skull fracture.
Investigators ultimately culminated Soren’s death as the outcome of a “month-long killing.”
“[It was] one of the most brutal things I have ever seen,” Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office detective Jason Catoe recalled on-stand, with an ambulance worker, Charles Campbell, later tearfully equating Soren’s daily life to one of “a living hell,” as the Daily Mail adds.
“I held her hand as she passed away,” Campbell stated during his testimony.
Prosecutors also read the text correspondence between April and Phillip Gleason, which took place between 2012 and 2013, that noted how April would often farcically threaten to join in the abuse by saying that was willing to commit “Soren-side” after the child began to display certain behavioral patterns. Additionally, she would reach out to Philip throughout her work day to be updated on what she called “damage reports,” which made mention of just how often — and how hard — Soren had been beaten at any given moment.
In court, Soren’s mother, who also birthed Phillip’s 8-year-old son and is currently carrying his second child (Soren’s father is a former boyfriend of April’s), exuded a very different persona, often falling to tears at every mention of Soren’s death and referring to the child as “the joy of [her] life.”
“I swear I’m not a monster,” April stated on Monday as she pleaded for probation. Instead, she was handed an 18-year sentence for aiding and abetting her husband.
As for Phillip Gibson, counsel on his behalf heavily implied that the violent acts he committed on his stepdaughter were a result of a previously-untreated PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) diagnosis, something that April also claimed to have suffered from and something that Newman was highly offended by.
“For him to stand there and blame it on the war and PTSD, it’s a slap in the face to every veteran,” Newman, a former war fighter, responded.
They also strongly asserted that a traumatic head injury Phillip obtained during his time fighting his Iraq somehow led him to having lesser judgment and control over his actions, which subsequently led him to abusing Soren.
Despite owning his guilt to Lancaster County Courthouse judge Brian Gibbons, Phillip Gibson was still given his near four-decade long sentence on charges of voluntary manslaughter and child neglect. Gibson’s 8-year-old son is said to be in the care of relatives. There is currently no word on who will take custody of the duo’s unborn child once it arrives.
[Featured Image by Lancaster Police Department]