Twenty-five months after she was convicted of the attempted murder, abuse and malicious wounding of her newborn child, a Roanoke teenager has been ordered released from custody.
At a review hearing last month, several officials who handled her case told a judge she is thriving, and they praised her progress.
The girl, now 17, was transferred Monday from the Northern Virginia Juvenile Detention Center in Alexandria to a Roanoke Valley independent living facility, court records show.
She will be on juvenile parole until her case is reviewed next spring, when she turns 18, and will then transfer into adult probation.
According to a memo by the Department of Juvenile Justice, her time at the Roanoke Valley facility will include trauma therapy, life skills coaching, guidance from a mentor and vocational training.
She will also be under curfew, may be subject to GPS monitoring, and she must meet with a probation officer several times a month.
In early 2017, when she was 14, the teenager gave birth at home without telling her relatives. She hid the baby boy when police executed a well-being check at her home. Investigators searched the house for nearly half an hour and were starting to leave when the newborn cried out. Police found the child hidden in a plastic storage tub and in need of medical attention.
“It is easy for us to attribute adult judgment to her and to look on what happened on Jan. 5 as shocking,” defense attorney Anna Bagwell said in court. “The actions she took that day were out of fear and not out of malice.”
She ultimately pleaded guilty to three felonies, received 20 years in suspended time and was ordered to serve at least two years in detention.
Although she was charged as an adult, the teen told police that the father of the child is an adult and that their encounter was not consensual. The Roanoke Times has not named her in its coverage of the case because it does not identify alleged victims of sexual assault.
The child was put into foster care in 2017 but updated information about his whereabouts was not available Tuesday.
The teen’s release followed a Sept. 10 review hearing in Roanoke Circuit Court that was attended by a half-dozen officials familiar with her case.
Tamesha Jenkins, a rehabilitation counselor who worked with her for more than a year, said the girl received her high school diploma in June.
“She’s a very smart young lady,” Jenkins said.
“She did her time and she did it well,” senior parole officer Christopher Roberts said at the hearing, but he said he felt she would benefit from ongoing therapy.
“She was forced at a young age to stand tall for a horrific crime and she stood tall for that. Has she dealt with the issue behind it? I don’t think so,” he testified.
“I think she’s pretty much done everything the court could ask her to do,” said Roanoke Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney David Billingsley, the prosecutor in the case.
“There were a couple of behavioral bumps in the road, but I think that’s to be expected,” Billingsley said at the hearing.
Judge Chris Clemens warned her that violating the rules of juvenile parole would lead her into “a situation where you don’t have any freedoms at all.”
“I’ve got to make sure you understand that,” he told her.
Clemens also said he would try to find some form of private funding for her to attend community college because her felony convictions make her ineligible for financial aid.
“Thank you for giving me the opportunity,” the girl said in court. “If y’all release me, I won’t let you down.”