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CAV: Baby’s bathtub death supports dad’s loss of rights years later

The circuit court did not err in terminating the parental rights of a father of six based on his conviction for involuntary manslaughter six years earlier. The offense arose from the death of his infant daughter when he left her unattended in the bath. The conviction was sufficient to support termination of rights, even though the children were not removed to foster care until years afterward.

Background

Appellant Jason King appeals the termination of his parental rights as to five children. In 2011, King was home with four of his five children, including an eight-month-old daughter. He left her in the bathtub unattended to take a phone call and returned to find her dead. He was convicted of involuntary manslaughter of the infant. He and his wife later had a sixth child.

Continuing concerns caused the Department of Social Services to remain active in monitoring the children through subsequent years. The Department eventually removed them and filed for termination of both parents’ parental rights. The circuit court granted termination pursuant to Code § 16.1-283(E)(iii). This appeal followed.

Removal after “felony assault”

King asserts that his conviction for involuntary manslaughter was not a “felony assault resulting in serious bodily injury” as required under § 16.1-283(E)(iii). The court disagrees.

The legislature’s concern in adopting § 16.1-283 was the physical health of the child; thus, “felony assault” under that statute is not limited to common-law assaults. Under Brown v. Spotsylvania Dep’t of Soc. Servs., 43 Va. App. 205 (2004), King’s conviction for involuntary manslaughter was a conviction for a “felonious crime that results in serious bodily injury to a child,” so his conviction is within the scope of subsection (E)(iii).

Contrary to King’s contention, involuntary manslaughter and the crime of child abuse and neglect do not have different mens rea elements. Both crimes require criminal negligence.

Finally, King argues that his parental rights should not be terminated based on his involuntary-manslaughter conviction because he was convicted six years prior to his other children’s removal. But § 16.1-283(E) does not impose any time restraints as to when the convictions had to occur in connection with removal. Thus, the circuit court did not err in terminating King’s parental rights.

Affirmed.

King v. King George Dep’t of Soc. Servs., Record No. 0164-18-2, Aug. 21, 2018. CAV (Petty), from King George Cir. Ct. (Hewitt). VLW No. 018-7-216, 8 pp.

VLW 018-7-216