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W.Va. woman enters Alford plea in death of infant son

Judge will consider pre-plea investigation findings before deciding whether to accept Jessica Lynn Skupnick's plea

February 01, 2012|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD | matthew.umstead@herald-mail.com
  • Jessica Lynn Skupnick
Jessica Lynn Skupnick

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — The mother of a 2-month-old boy who died in December 2010 from blunt force trauma to the head in Berkeley County has agreed to enter an Alford plea to gross neglect of a child resulting in death, according to the prosector.

Jessica Lynn Skupnick, 23, would not be admitting guilt by entering an Alford plea, but still would be acknowledging that there is sufficient evidence to gain a conviction.

The plea offer will be reviewed by 23rd Judicial Circuit Judge Gray Silver III, who is expected to consider the findings of a pre-plea investigation before deciding whether to accept the agreement reached between

Prosecuting Attorney Pamela Games-Neely and Skupnick’s attorney, B. Craig Manford.

The state’s plea offer is contingent upon Skupnick’s debriefing concerning the circumstances of the child’s death and her full cooperation with the state’s prosecution of co-defendant Dominic Hall, 19, Games-Neely said.

Skupnick’s trial was scheduled to begin Feb. 15, but she now is expected to return to court on April 30 when she possibly could enter the plea and be sentenced, the prosecutor said.

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Hall, whose trial is scheduled to begin April 24, was Skupnick’s boyfriend at the time of Jaxon Chaz Hall’s death on Dec. 4, 2010, but he is not the child’s biological father, according to court records.

Both Skupnick and Hall were indicted in October on two felony counts of death of a child by a parent, custodian or guardian and single counts of child neglect resulting in death, gross child neglect creating substantial risk of bodily injury and conspiracy.

The child’s death was ruled a homicide, and police allege the couple decided to ignore the child’s head injuries and failed to obtain medical treatment for him.

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, court documents said.

Games-Neely said Skupnick was originally charged with the felony count that now is part of the plea offer.

Skupnick could serve a three- to 15-year prison sentence if convicted of the charge, Games-Neely said.

Games-Neely said she and Manford would be free to submit sentencing recommendations for the court to consider if Silver accepts the plea agreement.
 

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