By Andrew Moore

WALHALLA — Rep. Bill Sandifer, R-Seneca, confirmed Monday that he has notified the clerk of the House of Representatives to add his name as a co-sponsor to Bill H3786, which would toughen minimum sentencing for those convicted of homicide by child abuse.

Section 16-3-85 in the South Carolina Code of Law requires a sentence of 20 years to life in prison for the crime. H3786 would increase that penalty to a minimum of life in prison without the possibility of parole and a maximum penalty of death should prosecutors choose to seek it.

The bill has gained significant support in Oconee County, led by Pat and Pam Grogan, great uncle and great aunt of Brianna Bright. Bright was only 5 months old last August when she was found unresponsive inside a Northwoods Apartments unit in Seneca. She died two days later at the hospital from closed head trauma, among other multiple injuries. Her biological father, Matthew Hinton, was charged with homicide by child abuse in the case, being the only other person in the apartment with the child then.

The Grogans have circulated a petition in support of the homicide by child abuse bill, gaining roughly 1,200 signatures to the document before sending a copy to Sandifer.

Sandifer said Monday he’d been supportive of the bill since its introduction to the House Judiciary Committee last March.

“I’ve been a supporter of this bill for a long time,” Sandifer said. “I had intended to add my name to it at the last part of the session last year, and things just got so hectic I failed to do so. When I got the Grogans’ letter, it reminded me of my intention to do that.”

“I applaud your efforts in collecting 1,997 signatures in support of H3786,” Sandifer wrote in response to the Grogans. “That is certainly indicative of the broad support that this bill has in our community.

“I have already notified the Clerk of the House to add my name to this bill as a co-sponsor. You may be assured that I will not only support it, but will work diligently for its passage.”