The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
No prison time for mother of burned children
The mother of four children who were burned for what prosecutors said was punishment for misbehavior received a suspended sentence Wednesday in Stafford County Circuit Court.
Josette Shirley Hawkins, 36, of Portsmouth pleaded guilty to child neglect and received a suspended four-year prison term.
Three similar charges against Hawkins were dropped as part of a plea agreement. Hawkins was represented by attorney Ghislaine Storr Burks.
The case stems from a Dec. 2 incident on England Pointe Drive off U.S. 17 in southern Stafford in which two children suffered third-degree burns. The children didn’t receive medical treatment until three days later.
Valleshia Margaret Griffin, paternal grandmother of two of the children, was recently ordered to serve six years in prison for her role in the incident.
Prosecutors Michael Hardiman and Ryan Frank said Griffin inflicted the actual harm on the children. Hawkins was charged for not getting immediate medical attention for the victims.
Griffin testified at her trial that she helped Hawkins get a home in Stafford after Hawkins expressed concern about social services possibly taking her children.
She said she also tried to teach Hawkins how to care for and control the children, who she said were constantly doing such things as playing with matches and writing on walls.
Griffin said the incident that resulted in her prison term was “a safety lesson, not discipline.” Because the children kept playing with the electric stove, she described how she held their hands about 15 inches over the burner so they would learn that it was hot.
She later admitted to police that she burned the children. But at trial she said the children were fine when she left them that evening.
Frank said that Hawkins, who is mentally challenged, was in another room when the burns were inflicted. But he said prosecutors couldn’t ignore the fact that she did not protect her children.
Prosecutors said the children are now living with an aunt and are doing well.
Keith Epps: 540/374-5404