W.Va. couple charged in death of infant son

December 13, 2010|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD |

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — A Berkeley County couple charged Monday with felony child neglect resulting in death allegedly canceled a regular checkup for their 2-month-old son the day before the boy was found unresponsive earlier this month, police said.

Dominic Michael Hall, 18, and his girlfriend, Jessica Lynn Skupnick, 22, both of 192 Butterfly Lane in Hedgesville, W.Va., were in Eastern Regional Jail Monday night after being arraigned hours earlier by Berkeley County Magistrate Sandra L. Miller, according to magistrate court and jail records.

The couple’s only child, Jaxon Chaz Hall, died Dec. 4 as a result of blunt force trauma to the head, according to court records and police. The boy had visible injuries to the face and head, according to court records.

Berkeley County’s 911 emergency dispatch center was contacted at 4:34 a.m. about the boy’s apparent grave medical condition, according to a dispatch center supervisor.

The boy was pronounced dead at his Back Creek Valley home near the community of Jones Springs by county medical examiner Donald Shirley, Berkeley County Sheriff’s Deputy T.M. Snyder said. An autopsy was performed Dec. 6 in Morgantown, W.Va., in coordination with the West Virginia Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, officials said.

Jaxon’s funeral service was Friday, Snyder said.

Hall and Skupnick allegedly told investigators in interviews “that prior to the victim’s death, they were aware of the child having injuries to his head and made (a) conscious decision to ignore them and chose not to seek treatment with a physician,” Snyder alleged in a complaint filed in court Monday.

A regular “two-month checkup” that had been scheduled with the boy’s physician was canceled by Skupnick with Hall’s consent the day before the boy died, according to Snyder.

Jaxon and his parents slept in the same room of the home where Hall’s mother and 12-year-old half sister also lived, according to Snyder. The boy’s condition was first discovered by Skupnick, Snyder said.

Hall’s half sister was staying with her father for the weekend and was not home when Jaxon died, Snyder said.

Hall, Skupnick and their son had been living there since July, Snyder said.

Snyder said he did not have any reason to believe the boy was unhealthy at birth.
The criminal penalties for a felony conviction of one count of child neglect resulting in death include a prison sentence of not less than three nor more than 15 years and as much as a $5,000 fine, according to statute.

Berkeley County Sheriff’s deputies involved in the investigation received assistance from West Virginia State Police Sgt. Kevin Pansch, Snyder said.

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