BEAUFORT, SC (October 21, 2020) – A Beaufort County couple have been sentenced to prison for abusing and failing to properly care for six of their children.
Yulunda Mitchell, 53 of Bluffton, was sentenced to 10 years in prison after pleading guilty Tuesday to 11 counts of unlawful conduct towards child in Beaufort County General Sessions Court. Her husband, Herbert Bernard Mitchell, who will turn 59 next month, was sentenced to four years in prison and also pleaded guilty to 11 counts of unlawful conduct towards a child.
“These children were routinely and wantonly abused, and they were threatened with yet more abuse when authorities began looking into their home situation,” prosecutor Hunter Swanson of the 14th Circuit Solicitor’s Office said. “Despite the threats, one of the older siblings finally disclosed what had been going on in the Mitchell’s home because he feared the youngest girl would not make it out of the house alive and he couldn’t live with that.
“He did a very brave thing. He might very well have saved their lives.”
The children aged in range from 5 to 13 when the investigation began in 2016. The couple had six children, five of whom were adopted. The case was initiated in 2016 when four of the children were caught stealing food while at school. One child told the principal that he was being denied food by his parents as a form of punishment and for religious reasons.
The school reported the incidents to the S.C. Department of Social Services, which described Yulanda as “good at playing the system” by keeping a clean house and attributing the children’s problems to their lives before the Mitchells adopted them.
However, as case workers dug deeper, they noticed the children’s lack of growth and development even while in the Mitchells’ household. Forensic medical exams were conducted, and the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office investigated.
Authorities discovered the children were forced to sleep on the floor, without pillows or blankets. They were struck with rulers and belts, and had their hair pulled and fingers bent backward. They were then kept out of school if their bruises were too visible. The children were sometimes locked in a bedroom as punishment, while others were allowed to eat. At other times, some of the children were denied food but forced to watch their siblings eat. Food and water were routinely denied the children.
“Yulanda was the one responsible for the abuse, while Herbert knew it was going on and failed to protect the children,” Swanson said.
The children were subsequently removed from the home and subsequently exhibited renewed growth. Three of children’s new adoptive parents spoke during Tuesday’s proceedings.
Swanson recommended a sentencing range for Yulanda Mitchell of eight to 10 years for each count, to run concurrently. She recommended a range of three to five years for Herbert Mitchell.
Circuit Court Judge Brooks Goldsmith accepted the pleas and sentenced Yulanda Mitchell to 10 years and Herbert Mitchell to five.
Swanson is the leader of the 14th Circuit Solicitor’s Office Special Victims Unit, which prosecutes cases involving domestic violence, sexual assault, child abuse and other crimes against vulnerable populations.