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Mother, boyfriend charged in child's death to be tried at different times

January 30, 2012|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD | matthew.umstead@herald-mail.com
  • Jessica Lynn Skupnick and Dominic Michael Hall
Jessica Lynn Skupnick and Dominic Michael Hall

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — The trial for the mother of a 2-month-old boy who died in December 2010 from blunt force trauma to the head in Berkeley County is scheduled to begin Feb. 15, but her boyfriend’s trial was rescheduled Monday.

Jessica Lynn Skupnick, 23, of 192 Butterfly Lane, Hedgesville, W.Va., and Dominic Michael Hall, 19, who is incarcerated at Eastern Regional Jail, were both indicted in October on two felony counts of death of a child by a parent, custodian or guardian, single counts of child neglect resulting in death, gross child neglect creating substantial risk of bodily injury and conspiracy.

The Dec. 4, 2010, death of Jaxon Chaz Hall was ruled a homicide. Police allege the couple decided to ignore the child’s head injuries and failed to obtain medical treatment for the boy.

The baby was due to be taken to a physician on Dec. 3 for a routine checkup, but police discovered that the parents were a “no show” for the appointment, and they did not call the doctor’s office to cancel it, according to court documents.

In what was to be Hall’s pretrial hearing Monday, defense attorney Robert E. Barrat told presiding 23rd Judicial Circuit Judge Gray Silver III that he wanted more time to review statements in the case.

Also, over the weekend, Barrat filed a motion to dismiss the case and a motion seeking to keep photographs that could be considered disturbing and grotesque from being shown to a jury at trial.

Barrat told Silver he didn’t want any photographs of the victim in the trial.

Berkeley County Prosecuting Attorney Pamela Games-Neely argued that the standard for allowing such photographs to be used at trial included determining whether a medical examiner could ably explain the autopsy findings to jurors without the visual aids.

Games-Neely conceded Monday that procedural rules allowed for the defendants to be tried separately and she also did not object to continuing Hall’s trial. Games-Neely told Silver that she was not entirely prepared to respond to Barrat’s motions Monday.

Hall, who waived his right to a trial within the current term of court that ends next month, remains incarcerated at Eastern Regional Jail.

A pretrial hearing scheduled Monday for Skupnick, who has some degree of hearing impairment, was rescheduled after an interpreter apparently was unavailable for the proceeding.

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