Deborah Elkins//December 13, 2016
Deborah Elkins//December 13, 2016//
The Court of Appeals affirms felony child neglect convictions for a mother who left her four children – ages 1, 3, 5 and 7 years old – alone in a hotel room for an extended period of time.
A hotel employee called the police after discovering the children by themselves in the room at 2:00 p.m., and defendant returned to the hotel room about 3:00 p.m. She had left the room the day before, and her companion had left the room that morning to be at work by 6:00 a.m. In the hotel room, police found a BB gun, a pocketknife, an open beer can and a cup that appeared to contain an alcoholic beverage. There were unopened beer cans in the room’s refrigerator but no readily edible food.
The dispositive factor in proving guilt under Va. Code § 18.2-371.1(B)(1) is whether the defendant knew her conduct was likely to expose her children to substantial risk or probability of serious injury or death. Here, defendant left her four young children overnight in a hotel room with an acquaintance, knowing he had to be at work at 6:00 a.m. the following morning. She made no alternative arrangements for the children and did not return to the hotel until 3:00 p.m., at which point the children had been by themselves at least nine hours. As the trial court concluded, defendant’s conduct constituted “virtual abandonment” of her children. The items present in the room and the lack of readily edible food contributed to the probability of harm to the children.
Leaving young children without adequate supervision for an extended period of time creates an untenable situation in which such children likely will suffer harm.
Mott v. Commonwealth (Bumgardner) No. 1802-15-1, Nov. 29, 2016; Hampton Cir. Ct. (Hutton) Kimberly Karle, Dep. PD, for appellant; Craig W. Stallard, AAG, for appellee. VLW 016-7-288(UP), 4 pp.