Bond reduced for mother accused of killing daughter

Cocke County Circuit Court Judge Carter Moore has reduced the bond of Samantha Harris, aka Samantha McDowell, to $200,000.

The 27-year-old defendant is charged with first-degree murder, first-degree felony murder and aggravated child abuse.

Arrested in Tampa, Florida last year, Harris/McDowell is charged with killing her daughter, Destinee Elaina Harris “with premeditation” and “in the perpetration of or to perpetrate aggravated child abuse” at her Newport home. The 2-year-old child died in July, 2015.

The child was being cared for at the time by a boyfriend, Bobby Pennington, 26, who a short time earlier had moved to Newport from Indiana. He was charged in the death immediately, and it wasn’t until last year a Cocke County Grand Jury, meeting in special session, indicted Harris/McDowell in the death.

She was reportedly at work at the time of the child’s death.

According to the Harris/McDowell warrant, obtained by Newport Detective Jason Ramsey, “The autopsy also showed internal injuries that had been inflicted over a period of time, to include aged fractures and severe damage to the child’s intestines, among other injuries. These injuries were a direct cause of the death of the child.”

A 4-month-old child was removed from the home following the death of Destinee. Authorities said Harris/McDowell was again pregnant at the time of her arrest last year.

The charges against Pennington are still pending, but he is out of jail on a $10,000 bond.

The bond for Harris/McDowell was originally set at $1 million.

In reducing the bond, Moore ordered that if she is released, the defendant may have no contact with Pennington and must wear a GPS monitor at all times.