Grandmother pleads guilty in Louisa child neglect case

By Tara Morgan - bio | email
Posted by Phil Riggan – email

LOUISA, VA (WWBT) - A big decision in Louisa County today in the case against a grandmother accused of torturing her 8-year-old granddaughter.

Laura Jewell pleaded guilty this morning to felony child abuse or neglect and malicious wounding. A cruelty charge was nolle pros 'ed.

She got upset with her 8-year-old granddaughter because she would occasionally wet her bed. That's what a Louisa county prosecutor told a judge today.

Jewell's attorney says his client is a loving grandmother who tried her best with a difficult child.  But prosecutors say her best wasn't good enough.

Jewell sat expressionless, as Louisa Commonwealth's Attorney, Tom Garrett, described the nightmare Jewell's eight year old granddaughter lived this summer. Garrett says Jewell kept a tin sauce pan tied to the girl's bedroom doorknob as an alarm.

On July 8th, Garrett says she escaped to a neighbor's house wearing a soiled pull up diaper. The girl said her grandmother beat her.

"It was bruising on each wrist in this area visible bruising, bruising with what would be called a black eye, clumps of hair missing from around her ears," said Garrett.

She also had a fractured foot. Garrett says Jewell kicked and stomped on the girl's feet. But Jewell's attorney says that injury could have happened when the girl jumped from a balcony when she left her home.

Garrett says Jewell claimed the child had Attention Deficit Disorder, but didn't get medication because it didn't work. At times, Garrett says Jewell would restrain the girl by sitting or laying on her.

When she became frustrated over the girl's occasional bed wetting, Garrett says Jewell would make her stay in her room for twenty hours.

Jewell's attorney declined an interview, but in court said Jewell maintains her innocence, that she loved her three grandchildren. But disciplined a difficult child as best she knew how.

"If that's indeed the case then she has no business raising a child," said Garrett.

The girl remains in foster care. Her two siblings also lived in the home. In court, Garrett revealed one had a black eye, but didn't know how she got it.

Garrett would not comment on the children's mother or how they ended up in their grandparent's care.

Laura Jewell will be sentenced in February. She could face up to 30 years in prison. Her husband Ronald Jewell goes to court next month.

What happened in court today is known as an Alford Plea. Jewell pleaded guilty, but did not say she was responsible for the acts. However, the prosecutor had strong enough evidence to convict her.

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