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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

MADD walk raises more than $26,000

The Central Virginia chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) hosted its annual Walk Like MADD fundraiser April 12 at Dorey Park in Varina. More than 20 teams of walkers raised money from individual donors by participating in the walk, and in total the event generated more than $26,000 in donations for the organization. > Read more.

Varina Ruritans honor students

The Varina Ruritan Club hosted the winners of its 2014 Environmental Essay contest at its monthly meeting March 11 in Varina.

The contest, in its eighth year, was for the first time open to students in grades 3-5 at Varina Elementary School. (It previously was open to Sandston Elementary School students.)

The meeting included the winners, parents of the winners, Varina Elementary principal Mark Tyler and several teachers who were in charge of the contest at the school. > Read more.

Baseball game to benefit Glen Allen Buddy Ball


For the fifth consecutive year, St. Christopher’s and Benedictine will play a varsity baseball game at Glen Allen's RF&P Park as part of a fundraising effort for the River City Buddy Ball program.

The game will take place Saturday, April 12, at 7 p.m., and the teams hope to raise $3,000 through donations, raffles and other efforts. Admission to the game is free, but fans who attend are asked to donate funds for the Glen Allen Youth Athletic Association's Buddy Ball program, which enables disabled children and teens to play baseball. > Read more.

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Entertainment

Weekend Top 10


Do the Bunny Hop over to Meadow Farm on Saturday for an introduction to all the farm animals there! An introduction to “Global Sounds” – featuring Japanese, Indonesian, West African, Indian, and Brazilian music and dance performances – can be found at the University of Richmond. The University of Richmond will also host the annual Spider spring game, as well as the inaugural Spiders Easter Egg Hunt. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

Restaurant watch

Find out how your favorite dining establishments fared during their most recent inspections by the Virginia Department of Health. > Read more.

A fun, fuzzy ride

‘Muppets Most Wanted’ worthy of its franchise

Do Muppets sleep? It’s hard to say.

They don’t really eat (or breathe, as far as anyone can tell). And only occasionally do they have visible, functioning legs.

As far as anyone knows, sleeping might be off the table. And that makes it very hard to accuse the Muppets of sleepwalking through their latest feature, Muppets Most Wanted – even if that’s exactly what’s going on.

Jim Henson’s beloved creations were back in a big way after 2011’s The Muppets, with fame and fortune and even an Oscar, a first for the group (“Rainbow Connection” was nominated, yet somehow failed to collect at the ’79 ceremony). > Read more.

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Registration ends today for the 2014 Henrico Citizens Academy, a five-week class beginning May 1 designed to give residents a comprehensive look at county operations and services. Classes will be… Full text

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