Conviction in death of 17-month old in Horry County partially overturned

akelley@thesunnews.comFebruary 18, 2014 

Convictions of an area grandmother and her former boyfriend in the death of a 17-month-old boy were partially overturned in the S.C. Court of Appeals, but the ruling will not affect the time the pair spends in prison, according to court records.

Julia Shawnette Gorman, 42, of Little River, and Robert Palmer, 35, of Conway, were convicted of homicide by child abuse, aiding and abetting homicide by child abuse and unlawful conduct/neglect toward a child in November 2011 for the death of Richard Aydian Grimes. Both were sentenced to 35 years imprisonment for the homicide by child abuse charge, 20 years for aiding and abetting and 10 years for the unlawful conduct charge. The sentences run concurrently.

The S.C. Court of Appeals last week released an opinion that partially affirmed and partially reversed the conviction.

Palmer and Gorman contended in the appeal that the trial court erred when it denied their directed verdict motions because the prosecution’s evidence was insufficient to prove whether Gorman or Palmer inflicted the child’s injuries and that either of them aided or abetted the other, according to court documents.

The appeals court maintained the convictions for homicide by child abuse and unlawful conduct toward a child, but said there was insufficient evidence of aiding and abetting and said the trial court should not have denied Palmer and Gorman’s request of a directed verdict on aiding and abetting. The aiding and abetting convictions were reversed. Because the sentences are running concurrently, the total time in jail will not change following the court’s ruling.

Grimes died July 16, 2008, after his parents made the decision to remove him from life support at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, where he was being treated after suffering skull fractures and bleeding in his brain.

His mother, Cesalee Carnaghie, left Aydian in Gorman’s care on July 2, 2008, and had flown to Arizona to pack up her and her husband’s belongings to prepare to move to Beaufort, where he would be stationed with the U.S. Marine Corps.

The court said the state “conclusively established” with medical evidence that the child died as a result of abuse with an “intentionally inflected blunt force trauma to the head.”

Contact AMANDA KELLEY at 626-0381, or follow her at

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