GREENVILLE COUNTY, S.C. -- Deputies say a 26-year-old man suffocated a 1-year-old, but friends and relatives of the man who is charged say that he could not have done it.
James Allen Johnson, 26, of Travelers Rest, is charged with homicide by child abuse.
EMS workers called deputies to a home on Fews Chapel Road in Greer on May 25 after the baby stopped breathing.
Greenville County deputies said the child's mother told them her daughter had choked while drinking tea from a glass.
The mother said she began CPR and called 911.
The baby was transported to the hospital where she remained in critical condition until she was pronounced dead on May 27. An autopsy performed on May 28 determined that the child had not choked on tea, but had been suffocated.
Greenville County Coroner Karie Cain identified the child as Nevaeh Denise Sprouse. Johnson, who goes by the nickname Parker, is the live-in boyfriend of the baby's mother, but he is not the biological father of the child.
Deputies said the autopsy results and other evidence led to Johnson's arrest. Cain said the child's body had bruises consistent with abuse.
Master Deputy Sam Cureton said, "We do know that the suffocation occurred at the hands of Mr. Johnson, by whatever means."
Some of Johnson's friends and neighbors said they don't believe he would kill a child.
Johnson's friend, Donald Coryell, said, "He's been so worried, his nerves are wrecked. And then when he found out she died, he fell to his knees and cried."
Johnson was arrested late Thursday and is being held in the Greenville County Detention Center without bond.
The baby's mother has not been charged, but the investigation is continuing. Johnson's friends are hoping that the investigation will ultimately clear him.
Johnson's friend Donald Coryell said, "He's the type of person -- when it comes to kids, he'd put himself in harm's way, break his bones -- whatever he needs to do to keep the kids safe."
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SEE RELATED: A mother is accused of letting her live-in boyfriend kill her 1-year-old daughter and then lying to deputies about what happened.
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