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Pair agree to enter pleas in child abuse case

March 31, 2011|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD | matthewu@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — A Martinsburg man accused of abusing a 3-month-old boy who was found in October 2010 with severe bruising and a bone fracture in his leg has accepted a plea agreement, authorities said Thursday.

Derrick Lane Fillinger, 27, who appeared in Berkeley County Circuit Court for a status hearing Thursday, has agreed to plead no contest to one count of child abuse causing serious bodily injury and child abuse causing bodily injury, according to a plea offer letter that the defendant signed Thursday.

Counts of gross child neglecting creating substantial risk of serious bodily injury and felony conspiracy to commit child abuse pending against Fillinger would be dismissed if presiding 23rd Judicial Circuit Judge Gina M. Groh accepts the proposed plea agreement.

The child’s mother, Jo Ann Bryan, 23, who appeared in court for a separate status hearing on Thursday, signed a plea agreement in which she would enter a guilty plea to one count of accessory after the fact to felony child abuse causing serious bodily injury and one count of interference with (police) officers or members, according to court records.  

Groh is expected to announce whether she will accept both defendants’ pleas in hearings on June 2.

The judge would have full discretion to sentence Fillinger — who was being held in Eastern Regional Jail on Thursday — to a maximum of three to 15 years in prison, according to state code and Berkeley County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Gregory K. Jones.

In Bryan’s case, the state is recommending that any jail sentence imposed by Groh be suspended for probation and that the defendant pay a $200 fine. Bryan could be ordered to serve a maximum of 14 months behind bars — a year for the accessory charge and 60 days for interfering with police, according to court records and Jones.

The child abuse charges pending in an indictment of Bryan would be dismissed, according to the proposed plea agreement.

The state’s recommendation for Bryan’s sentence was made contingent upon her cooperation in the prosecution of Fillinger, according to Jones.

The abuse and neglect allegations were investigated by the West Virginia State Police, with assistance from the Child Protective Services unit of the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources in Berkeley County, according to court records.

A physician at Frederick (Md.) Memorial Hospital determined that the fracture of the child’s left tibia was caused by a severe amount of concentrated force in a twisting manner, according to court records.

Fillinger allegedly told police that he believed the bruises were caused by the family’s golden retriever and the mother’s 3-year-old daughter, according to court records.

He later admitted that he was alone with the toddler and the 3-year-old while his girlfriend was shopping on Oct.  12, according to court records.

Bryan initially said the dog was playing in a rough fashion with the child and was standing on top of the boy, but then later admitted that she had been lying, according to court records.

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