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Blackville man finds faith through autism, cancer and witchcraft


By 2005, James Hutto lost both parents within six months of each other. This lowcountry native and son of a preacher was in a season of testing and change. The street drug, methamphetamine, was gripping people left and right and a close family member was caught in the trap. Hutto saw the young man wasn’t willing to accept anyone’s help, let alone his; so he prayed about it and sought a fresh start.
He ended up in Texas where his mother had passed away, a half sister still lived and the Holy Spirit secured his next mission.
As the sun was setting one Friday night, a neighbor knocked on his door requesting he ride along to help assist her coworker on lockdown. A woman she described as a single mom with three boys, the youngest being autistic; a pet wolf, two basset hounds and 19 cats needing to be fed.
Accepting the challenge, Hutto noted, “Upon arrival it was pitch black. A mobile home sat on a bayou with grass up to my shoulders.” He introduced himself to the animals; the wolf, Scarlett, in particular. Once she accepted his welcome he fed the animals.
Scanning the unkept yard, Hutto knew he’d return to cut the grass, ensuring the family had a safe environment. His neighbor guaranteed a lawn mower would await him come Monday. He walked 17 miles there, cut the grass and “had every intention of leaving before the single mother and her children arrived. But it didn’t work that way,” he said. While taking a break, filling a jug with water for the long hike back home, a white truck driven by the young mother pulled up.
“Her nine-year-old autistic son got out, toy pistol in his hand, waving his arms, making a buzzing sound like a giant hornet. He made a beeline right towards me,” Hutto said. “No eye contact. He put a death grip on my wrist and was not letting go. Instantaneously, I knew my life just changed, forever.”
The boy's mother commented to Hutto, “This is my son, Brandon Wolf Cub (his middle name is Wolf) he doesn’t touch or allow himself to be touched by anyone; rarely even me. You’re good people.”
Days into weeks, Hutto continued helping the family as attachments formed. But a budding relationship was ”quickly nipped in the bud” once he learned she was practicing Wicca and he, devoted to Christ, was soon to become a chaplain for a bikers organization. Still, “we coexisted very well; especially helping the young man with the deathgrip,” Hutto said. “She was raised Christian and told me I wasn’t judgmental like those she’d known before. Judge not lest ye be judged” was his reply. He also hoped she’d eventually return to Christ, believing God’s promise, “Raise them up in the ways of The Lord and they will come back to it,” he paraphrased.
By age 13, Brandon split time between his grandparents and Hutto’s home. “I became sort of a surrogate dad to him. He began calling me Daddy James. In high school, unbeknownst to me, he used my last name instead of his for classwork. I showed the papers to his mother, she glanced but didn’t seem to compute the depth of his feelings.”
By the summer of 2015, Brandon's struggling mother gave Hutto permission to become his power of attorney. “At that time, it wasn’t in my wildest imagination that he would ever be a Hutto, but I wanted to do all I could to help him,” Hutto said.
As graduation neared, school resources educated the young man about his approaching legal rights while home life found him in a mix of alpha male issues with mom’s new husband.
With everyone in agreement, Hutto searched for an affordable home in Illinois for the two, while Brandon participated in a year-long after grad program on the high school campus.
Brandon appeared to be fine with the situation til the day Nana and Papa called Hutto, saying “they were sending Wolf Cub up to me,” he explained. “Unprepared, I had to put the brakes on. Told Wolf Cub on the phone he’d need to continue school, do his regular routine. Every weekend and break he’d spend at Nana and Papa’s and then I’d be back for him. I told him to call anytime you want and I love you.”
Since Hutto was already power of attorney, on Election Day of 2017 Brandon requested his name legally be changed to Hutto. “Once the judge granted the change, Brandon petitioned for me to be his Social Security payee,” he said. “In April 2018, his mother agreed without dispute. One month later we got an apartment and started our official father and son journey. I’ve never looked back. He wanted out of his situation and be with Daddy James. Brandon and mom have had a better relationship since then, too.”
After a while, Hutto knew it was time to return to South Carolina. In 2020, he “totally stepped out on faith and bought a home in Blackville,” he said. “God led me. It needs a lot of work but God provided, with the first night in our house being Good Friday, next door to a church. Brandon came from a pagan household, now he goes to church and accepts Christ as his Savior!”
But of course, there are still a couple of “flies in the ointment.” Brandon is diagnosed autistic and intellectually disabled (IDD) and Hutto has cancer.
A colon cancer survivor in his 40s now Hutto, nearing 60, is a prostate cancer patient infiltrating the lymph nodes. Diagnosed 15 months ago, doctors are attacking it with hormone therapy.
“Since then I kicked into high gear trying to get Brandon in some kind of structured program,” he said. “The day program is ideal for him. In February, he was assessed and denied the Long Term Program Care program, which I agreed with. He does not need that. That's for people that are physically disabled. Unable to care for themselves. Brandon needs the intellectual disability side.”
Attempts to get him into the program so far have gone nowhere. Once they arrived in Blackville, during the pandemic, Brandon immediately qualified via Zoom conference for S.C. Adult Disability Services, “but the phone never rang,” Hutto said. “Almost 4 years later, he’s still on the waiting list.”
Hutto said he “saw a place in Bamberg - the board of disabilities. Went inside, presented paperwork, and was assigned a caseworker. Bought Brandon a lunch kit, walked through facilities; showed him his seat, got his physical, TB test, etc. He’d work in a community day program. Brandon was excited. Sat outside waiting for the bus day after day. It never came. I got a call instead. There was a mistake. I was totally caught off guard. What I gathered is that someone dropped the ball. My educated guess is it's not because of unavailability, not a lack of a spot for him, but that you're on a list and you simply have to wait. The bottom line is Brandon has acclimated to small town life. He's beyond happy here. He has a home but he's been on this list for four years. An autistic individual thrives on routine.”
Options like respite services and community outings are likewise offered in South Carolina but it goes back to the waiting list. Over 10,000 individuals wait before him across the state.
“In my head I thought, my God, the man’s going to be almost 40 before he gets any assistance,” Hutto said. “So, we recently got a new caseworker assigned because of the fact that I have cancer. And because I'm his primary and only caregiver.”
Brandon’s daily routine has become his laptop and gaming system. His “command center.”
Hutto continued, “He needs a companion program. He has ‘Rae Salley’…a ‘fox’ he has around him all the time. A sixth dimensional being. She's everywhere he goes. To him, Rae Salley is real. She appeared around the time of my cancer diagnosis. He understands dad’s diagnosis and shows no anxiety, but I do believe there’s some anxiety there. He tells me, ‘I'm not a snowflake. I won’t melt.’ He is either A: very brave or B: very good at putting on a brave face. And I think it's a combination of both.”
Wiping a tear from his eye, Hutto said, “He needs socialization, he needs a friend. A reinforced, productive routine with trained people among other special needs individuals that he can relate to. It's critical. The old saying, you don't use it, you lose it. He's lost so much since he's been out of school. My desire is to see Brandon form a friendship. He's got Dad and that’s it. The day program offers so much. But, God does not make mistakes. God brought us here. Introduced us all those years ago in Texas. I am so blessed. That young man chose me to be his dad. He's totally changed the course of my life in nothing but a positive way. I’m just looking for any umbrella that he can find assistance under.”
As this interview wrapped up, we were both in tears. It suddenly came on this faith writer's heart to call, friend and brother in Christ, Barnwell County Sheriff’s Department Lt. Eric Kirkland; son of the late, great Peggy Kirkland, who spent her life working tirelessly helping our community. The lieutenant, just like his mother would have done, didn’t hesitate to speak with Hutto right then and there, offering encouragement, prayers and the assurance of any resources he may be able to find.
“Being in a rural place hurts us, up to mental illness. This is another case,” Kirkland said.
“I’m a happy, positive man,” Hutto said. “But I started to get depressed when I thought about my son’s unmet needs. Having this opportunity for media exposure; for my son and others in our shoes, and speaking with Eric Kirkland has encouraged me so much. He immediately informed me of Bright Start, but it looks like they only do early intervention for children up to six, from what I can tell. He did offer major moral support and told me to call him anytime. He also mentioned something about a group that helps with home repairs and such. He is a very nice man.”
Like it was years ago, Hutto’s once again in a challenging season of change. “But I’m blessed,” he said. “My son’s gone from life in a pagan household to a community where people accept him and care. Now I just pray for someone to embrace him and be there for him when God calls me home.”