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W.Va. woman pleads no contest to child neglect resulting in death of son

September 10, 2012|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD | matthew.umstead@herald-mail.com
  • Jessica Lynn Skupnick
Jessica Lynn Skupnick

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — A woman’s no-contest plea to child neglect resulting in the December 2010 death of her 2-month-old son was accepted Monday by a judge in Berkeley County Circuit Court.

 Jessica Skupnick, 24, is expected to be sentenced on the felony conviction after being evaluated at Lakin Correctional Center for 60 days.

 While Skupnick faces a maximum of three to 15 years in prison, 23rd Judicial Circuit Judge Gray Silver III concluded that the diagnostic evaluation could be “very helpful” in determining a sentence.

 Skupnick and Dominic 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.

While the remaining counts of the indictment against Skupnick were dismissed Monday as part of the plea agreement, she will have to register with the Child Abuse Registry for 10 years in accordance with state law, according to Berkeley County Prosecuting Attorney Pamela Games-Neely.

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Citing the findings of a preplea report by the circuit’s probation office, Silver said it didn’t appear that Skupnick inflicted any injury on her son, Jaxon Chaz Hall, and noted she had no prior criminal history.

Silver also noted that Skupnick, who is hearing-impaired, assisted in the prosecution of Hall, who was sentenced in April to 40 years in prison. Silver separately refused to reconsider Hall’s sentence last week.

In laying a factual basis for Skupnick’s conviction Monday, Games-Neely told the court the state could prove that Skupnick canceled a scheduled medical appointment for her son on Dec. 3, 2010, the day before he was found dead.

Games-Neely said Skupnick was told by Hall’s sister to take the child to see a physician.

The child died from multiple blunt-force trauma to the head and rib cage, Games-Neely said. 

Games-Neely said Skupnick apparently canceled the medical appointment because she feared action might be taken against her by the state because of the child’s injuries.

Authorities were told that Hall shook the baby multiple times and bounced the child off the bed like a basketball, according to Games-Neely. 

After Skupnick moved in with Hall, she found bruises on the child, but couldn’t figure out where they were coming from, according to Games-Neely. Hall was not the baby’s biological father.

Silver said Skupnick’s cooperation and faithful participation in therapy, counseling and parenting classes make her circumstances different than that of Hall in “a very sad and tragic case, however you look at it.” 



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