Trigger Warning: Child Abuse
NORFOLK, Va. – A Norfolk judge sentenced 39-year-old Jessica Anne Cherry on Friday to serve an active 10 years in prison for the neglect of one child in 2018 and the death of another in 2020 at her home daycare.
On June 6, 2018, the mother of a 1-year-old in Ms. Cherry's care received notice from Ms. Cherry that the child had fallen from a chair and hit her head on the floor. The mother picked up her child from the daycare and had the child transported to a hospital for treatment. The child had extensive bruising to the back left side of her head and was found to have a skull fracture. Ms. Cherry pleaded guilty to felony child neglect in this case on Jan. 6, 2023.
On Aug. 18, 2020, a different child, 2-year-old Kaylee Thomas, was found dead in a pack-and-play at Ms. Cherry’s home. The child had severe stomach upset and had been suffering from vomiting episodes in the days leading to her death. Her autopsy showed several bruises, abrasions, and possible arm fractures. A Norfolk jury convicted Ms. Cherry of involuntary manslaughter in this case on Aug. 10, 2022.
On Friday, Ms. Cherry appeared before Judge Michelle J. Atkins for sentencing. Ms. Cherry’s Virginia state sentencing guidelines recommended a sentence of probation to six months in jail. Senior Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Andrew Kolp advocated for a sentence of 15 years in prison, the maximum available under the law.
After hearing the prosecution and defense arguments, the court sentenced Ms. Cherry to 10 active years in prison. The details of Ms. Cherry's sentence include: five years in prison, with two suspended, for child neglect, and 10 years in prison, with three suspended, for involuntary manslaughter. Ms. Cherry's suspended sentences are conditioned upon her completion of indeterminate supervised probation, having no unsupervised contact with children who are not her own, and not facilitating future daycare services.
"As a parent, there is no greater nightmare than putting your baby in the hands of someone who will hurt them," said Commonwealth's Attorney Ramin Fatehi. "Jessica Cherry brought that nightmare to life for these parents and their children. These were hard-fought cases with disputed facts, but we have held Ms. Cherry accountable and done what we can to protect other children from Ms. Cherry."
If you have or someone you love has fallen victim to crime, including but not limited to neglect and abuse, resources are available at the Norfolk Family Justice Center. For more information, please visit norfolkfjc.org, call 757-330-0376 or stop by the NFJC inside the Park Place Multi-Services Center at 606 W. 29th St., between 8:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. on weekdays. If you are in crisis, call the 24/7 hotline by dialing 757-251-0144. In an emergency, please call 911.