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Change-of-plea and sentencing hearing postponed for W.Va. woman in death of infant

Jessica Skupnick agreed earlier this year to enter an Alford plea to gross neglect of a child resulting in death

May 01, 2012
  • Jessica Lynn Skupnick
Jessica Lynn Skupnick

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — A judge Monday agreed to postpone the change-of-plea and sentencing hearing for a woman accused in the December 2010 death of her 2-month-old son.

Jessica Skupnick, 23, agreed earlier this year to enter an Alford plea to gross neglect of a child resulting in death, according to the prosecutor.

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

Berkeley County Prosecuting Attorney Pamela Games-Neely did not oppose the postponement Monday.

Defense attorney B. Craig Manford told 23rd Judicial Circuit Judge Gray Silver III that he needed more time to follow up on items in a pre-plea investigation report he received April 25.

In a three-page motion filed with the court, Manford noted that he wanted to have counselors who have been treating Skupnick to be present for the sentencing hearing, saying he believed it would be “extremely helpful” to the court.

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Manford said in his motion that Skupnick is attempting to regain full custody of her child and has made remarkable progress in that regard.

Manford said he also wanted time to consider options suggested for Skupnick, including a 60-day diagnostic evaluation, and how that could affect the pending child custody issue.

Skupnick was given the opportunity to enter the plea if she agreed to give a full account of the circumstances of her child’s death and fully cooperate with the state’s prosecution of co-defendant Dominic Hall, 19.

Hall, Skupnick’s boyfriend at the time of Jaxon Chaz Hall’s death, was sentenced last month to 40 years in prison. The child was not Hall’s biological son.

Both Skupnick and Hall were indicted in October 2011, 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 on Dec. 4, 2010, 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.

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