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Janis proposes stiffer penalties for child endangerment

A Louisa County child abuse case sparked legislation proposed by Del. William R. Janis, R-Glen Allen, to increase penalties for anyone convicted of endangering a child.

The case involved Louisa residents Laura and Ronald Jewell, who were accused of torturing their 8-year-old granddaughter.

The prosecutor, Louisa Commonwealth's Attorney Tom Garrett Jr., said the girl sneaked out of her house on July 8, 2010 and ran to neighbor’s home for help. The neighbors, upon hearing a noise around 3 a.m., opened their door and found the girl, who was covered in bruises. She told the neighbors that she had been beaten and asked for help. The neighbors then proceeded to call 911.

The little girl was missing significant chunks of hair, Garrett said. She had open sores behind her ears and a small portion of one of her ears was missing. One of her ankles was broken and she had what looked like cigarette burns all over her body, he said.

The Jewell grandparents, with whom the girl was living, had made a “home-security system” to keep her in her room, Garrett said. They did so by tying a pan to her doorknob, which would make lots of noise when she would try and open the door.

Laura Jewell was convicted of malicious wounding and felony child abuse and neglect, and faces up to 30 years in prison when she is sentenced next month. Ronald Jewell pleaded guilty to felony child neglect and also faces substantial prison time.

The issue at hand, Garrett said, is that child torture statues are located in the child labor section of Virginia legislation. The judge presiding over the Jewell case stated that since the grandmother wasn’t the child’s employer, she couldn’t enact the penalties that come along with a child labor law infraction.

Janis said the problem is that the statutes pertained more to child labor laws as opposed to child abuse under criminal code. The acts that came out of those discussions were labor-related and not catered to children who were physically harmed by a parent, he said.

“We want to have as many teeth for physical abuse as we do for sexual abuse,” Garrett said.

Legislative changes would give prosecutors more ways to help victims and convict abusers. The bill Janis proposes, HB 1996, would make it a Class 3 felony with additional penalties for cases similar to the Jewell convictions. A related measure he submitted, HB 1995, would allow victims of child pornography to collect civil damages from offenders.

“There are three things we’re trying to do within these codes. Firstly, we want to move child torture and abuse from the child labor codes to the criminal code. Secondly, we want increased restitution for the victims of said abuse. And thirdly, we want more distinctions within the code regarding levels of offenses,” Garrett said. There is currently nothing within the code that addresses the varying atrocities of child abuse, torture and neglect, he said.

Garrett said he spoke with Janis early on in the Jewell case about the various issues within the code. Janis was eager to try to make improvements, he said.

With regard to this year’s legislative session, “I’m afraid because budget times are so tight,” Garrett said. More people in prison means more money spent.

This isn’t something a lot of lawmakers are going to want to hear, he said, “but if you’re breaking kids’ ankles, in my opinion, you deserve to be in jail.”

– Liz Monahan is a reporter for Capital News Service


Community

Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden raises admission $1

Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden’s admission has increased by $1 across all categories. Admission is now $12 for adults; $11 for seniors ages 55 and older; and $8 for children ages 3–12. Admission remains free for children ages 3 and younger and for members.

The last price increase was in 2011, before the Garden consistently hosted Butterflies LIVE! (which is included with admission). > Read more.

Garden tails

The threat of bad weather didn’t keep visitors away from Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden July 10 for the facility’s weekly Flowers After 5 event (which pairs music and food with a chance to stroll the garden) and its monthly Fidos After 5 (which allows dog owners to bring their pets with them to enjoy the evening). > Read more.

Western Henrico Rotary helps fund Midwives For Haiti Jeep


Thanks in part to a $10,000 gift from the Western Henrico Rotary Club, another bright pink Jeep modified to travel extremely rough terrain has been delivered to Midwives For Haiti so that more pregnant women in the quake-ravaged country will have access to prenatal care and a greater chance of surviving childbirth.

The funds were raised at the annual casino night held in February, club president Adam Cherry said. The Rotary Club also helped purchase the Virginia-based charity’s first pink jeep three years ago. > Read more.

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Entertainment

US Army Field Band to perform in Henrico Aug. 3

The United States Army Field Band will present a free public performance at Deep Run Park in Henrico on Sunday, Aug 3 at 3 p.m.

Members of the band are soldiers who also serve as “musical ambassadors of the Army” and perform for schools and communities nationwide.

The Concert Band will be performing along with the Soldiers’ Chorus. > Read more.

Weekend Top 10


Take in a show at several locations this weekend! West End Comedy will provide laughs at HATTheatre; the production of “Pump Boys and Dinettes” will close Sunday; and the youth theatre company CharacterWorks will present “Footloose” at The Steward School. Another show perfect for the kids – “Despicable Me 2” is playing at the Eastern Henrico Recreation Center tonight. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

Is there an Echo in here?

‘Earth to Echo’ aims to become this generation’s ‘ET’
It’s no secret that all found-footage genre movies are the same. Grab a couple of characters, give one of them a camera, and expose them to something supernatural that’s content to lurk just off-screen until the last five minutes. Everything else will just fall into place.

But that formula isn’t particularly family friendly, if only because that thing waiting a few feet to the left of the cast is usually plotting their violent doom.

That’s what sets Earth to Echo apart from the pack. It, too, follows a group of characters armed with a camera and a tendency to encounter unknown life forms. But all those familiar parts have been rearranged just enough to make it suitable for a much younger audience. > Read more.

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