NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — A former Norfolk daycare operator pleaded guilty to child neglect Friday after a child she watched was seriously injured in 2018.
Jessica Cherry pleaded guilty to a lesser child abuse charge in Norfolk Circuit Court. She was previously charged with the more serious Class 4 child neglect. Class 4 means the neglect resulted in serious injury or death. She ultimately pleaded guilty to Class 6 child neglect. Class 6 is less serious, but still means the defendant showed a “reckless disregard for life.”
Cherry was accused of injuring a one-year-old girl at the daycare she ran out of her Norfolk apartment.
In February 2022, a mistrial was declared after a jury couldn’t decide whether to convict Cherry on the charges.
In the trial, Prosecutor Andrew Kolp said the little girl had a severe bruise on her head and a skull fracture. The prosecutor told 10 On Your Side the jury in last year’s trial had concerns regarding the evidence in the case.
Some of the evidence included testimony from a child abuse pediatrics specialist that reviewed the file but didn’t examine the child in person. She testified the child’s injuries were caused by blunt force trauma.
Kolp said the testimony is conflicting. In court Friday, he said the specialist previously indicated the injuries to the head could be caused by a fall greater than three feet.
The Commonwealth ultimately revised her charges, allowing Cherry to plead guilty to the lesser felony child neglect charge.
Also, Friday morning, the Commonwealth dismissed a felony child abuse charge against her related to the death of 1-year-old Benjamin Gates. Cherry wasn’t accused of killing the little boy but was charged with injuring him.
Kolp said to the judge the medical examiner was unable to find a manner or cause of death. He said the little boy’s injuries couldn’t be “tailored” to Cherry. The prosecutor also said there were no marks on the child.
Aside from the guilty plea, Cherry was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter after a jury trial in August.
Cherry was convicted in the death of 2-year-old Kaylee Thomas. The little girl was found unresponsive in a playpen at Cherry’s home.
Cherry’s sentencing is set for March 17. During the court hearing, she will be sentenced on the child neglect charge and involuntary manslaughter charge.
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