Laurens, S.C.; November 11, 2021 — A Clinton man will be incarcerated for the rest of his natural life after he pleaded guilty Thursday afternoon to charges stemming from an incident that left a 2-year-old child dead, 8th Circuit Solicitor David M. Stumbo announced.
William Ryan Looper, 30, of Clinton, pleaded guilty Thursday afternoon to one count of murder, one count of first-degree criminal sexual assault with a minor, and two counts of unlawful neglect of a child in connection with the June 2018 death of 2-year-old Brantley Smith, the child of Looper’s then-girlfriend Jessica Smith.
In September 2018, Solicitor Stumbo provided formal notice to Looper that the State intended to seek the death penalty. The State agreed to withdraw the death penalty notice in exchange for Looper’s guilty plea and cooperation with prosecutors and law enforcement to testify as to crimes in which he was victimized.
Circuit Judge Donald Hocker sentenced Looper to the negotiated life in prison without the possibility of parole on the murder charge, 60 years on the first-degree criminal sexual conduct charge and 10 years on each of the unlawful neglect charges, with all sentences to run concurrently.
In June 2018, authorities were called to Smith’s residence in response to a possible child death. When they arrived, officers discovered the 2-year-old Brantley Smith to be unresponsive and to have visible bruising across much of his body. Jessica Smith told officers that Looper had beaten the child. The child was pronounced dead at the scene.
Looper later admitted under interrogation to Laurens County and S.C. Law Enforcement Division investigators that he had been horrifically beating and abusing the child repeatedly for approximately two weeks and that he “did not know why.” Looper also confessed to sexually assaulting the child with a sex toy with the intention of further hurting his victim.
Solicitor Stumbo handled the case for the State with assistance from Senior Assistant Solicitor Taylor Daniel, Assistant Solicitors Margaret Boykin and Dale Scott, 8th Circuit Investigators Walter Bentley and Michael Cox, and Victim Advocate Rhetta Smith. Looper was represented by 8th Circuit Public Defender Chelsea McNeill and C. Boyd Young, Chief Attorney for the Capital Trial Division of the South Carolina Commission on Indigent Defense.
Solicitor Stumbo praised the work of his staff along with the work of Sheriff Don Reynolds and the Laurens County Sheriff’s Office, as well as SLED, in securing the conviction and prison sentence.
“Billy Looper’s actions are the very face of evil and it is unfathomable the depth of that evil faced by Brantley on that horrific night,” Solicitor Stumbo said. “Although we still believe that he is deserving of a death sentence for what he did, this resolution to a negotiated life sentence will provide a unique opportunity to pursue a more complete justice for this family and our community. May Brantley rest in peace.”