Woman avoids prison term
A Spotsylvania County woman who ran an unlicensed day care center in her home has pleaded guilty to felony child neglect after a toddler in her care became covered with human bite marks.
Jessica Lynn Hull, 36, received a five-year suspended sentence in Spotsylvania Circuit Court Wednesday as part of a plea agreement.
The conviction stems from Aug. 26, 2013, when police and the county’s child protective services were called to the Mary Washington Hospital emergency room to investigate a report of an abused child.
A 15-month-old girl had a large number of injuries consistent with human bites, the agreement said. The parents told authorities they had dropped off the girl and her 2-year-old brother at Hull’s residence that morning and when they picked them up she was covered with the injuries, the agreement said.
When police arrived at Hull’s home, she told them that the little girl’s brother inflicted the injuries during an incident she observed and broke up, according to the plea agreement. But during the course of the investigation, it became clear that she was not telling the truth.
When it became apparent that she was going to be arrested, Hull made a series of statements claiming that she knew the child had been injured in her care and took steps to conceal the injuries from the parents, the agreement states.
A forensic nurse who examined the child said the injuries “would have taken an extensive period of time to have been inflicted, and would have been so painful that the child would have necessarily cried out during the entire time that the injuries were being inflicted.”
Since the bites had broken the skin, the nurse said there was a chance of life-threatening infection.
It was determined by investigators and child protective service agents that Hull had left the child unsupervised for a long period of time.
According to Spotsylvania Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Matthew Lowery, the source of the bites—which did appear to be caused by child-size teeth—was never identified.
Lowery said the sentence was on the low end of the guidelines, but pointed out that Hull had no prior criminal history, will be labeled as a felon under supervised probation and that the Department of Social Services will have unfettered access to her home.
She is also banned from ever running or working for a child care business.
Judge Joseph J. Ellis had reservations about accepting the plea agreement and took some time to view the gruesome pictures of the girl’s injuries before handing down the verdict.
“By the look of these injuries, I can’t imagine this child wasn’t screaming bloody murder,” Ellis said. “This is a 15-month-old child, don’t you even think about providing day care services in the future.”
While Hull was out on bond for this charge, she was arrested again on child neglect charges involving her own children, according to records. The safety of her children will be monitored by child protective services, and she is not to have contact with the victim or her family.
Defense attorney Jon Spencer represented Hull.
Portsia Smith: 540/374-5419