A Richmond mother is now facing felony abuse charges after her young children were found unsupervised in front of their home playing in the snow at 2 a.m. Feb. 3.
A Madison grand jury indicted Valarie J. Ward, 23, of Smith Village, of three counts of first-degree criminal abuse and three counts of endangering the welfare of a minor.
Police originally charged Ward with the three endangerment offenses, which are misdemeanors that carry a maximum penalty of 12 months in jail.
However, Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Jennifer Smith said that after reading the investigative file, she quickly presented the case to the grand jury to pursue felony charges.
The endangerment charges indicate neglect occurred, but the more serious criminal abuse charges state that the children were placed in a “situation that might have caused (them) death or serious physical injury,” Smith explained.
“I think those kids were,” she added.
Ward faces a maximum of 15 years in prison if convicted on all three criminal abuse charges.
Officers were called to Smith Village after a neighbor reported seeing Ward’s 2- and 4-year-old children playing outside in the early morning, according to an RPD report.
One of the children was barefoot and was wearing no pants. The other was only partially clothed, the report stated. The temperature was 21 degrees.
The adult took the children into her home to wait for police.
The officers reported discovering the rear door to Ward’s home open, and another 2-year-old child was found in a crib. No adults were in the home, the reported stated
The officers took the three children to the police station. State workers with the Cabinet for Health and Family Services placed the children in the care of an adult relative, and there were no injuries to the children as a result of the incident, the RPD reported.
Ward was summoned by phone to the police station where she was cited on the misdemeanor charges and released.
Additional indictments handed down Wednesday were:
• Natasha Leann Richardson, 30, two counts of first-degree possession of a controlled substance (heroin and methamphetamine) and possession of drug paraphernalia
• Christopher Kyle Mayes, 23, first-degree trafficking in a controlled substance (oxycodone)
• Trevor Madsen, 27, first-degree possession of a controlled substance (oxycodone)
• Scott Hobbs, 43,third-degree burglary (unlawfully entering Concord Dry Cleaners on Feb. 16, 2013) and first-degree persistent felony offender
• Martin Cruz Jr., 52, two counts of first-degree wanton endangerment, fourth-degree assault and third-degree terroristic threatening
• John W. Medley, 38, trafficking in marijuana (more than 8 ounces), second-degree escape, possession of drug paraphernalia, second-degree fleeing police, second-degree persistent felony offender and first-degree persistent felony offender
• John W. Medley, 38, two counts of trafficking in a controlled substance (heroin) and first-degree persistent felony offender
• Amy Taylor, 35, false statement or representation to receive benefits (over $100) and second-degree persistent felony offender
• Juan-Carlos Blanco, 35, first-degree bail jumping
• Lewis C. Silket, 30, first-degree bail jumping
• Cody Brinnegar, 23, two counts of first-degree sexual abuse, third-degree unlawful transaction with a minor, first-degree indecent exposure and distribution of obscene materials to a minor.
Orders of dismissal without prejudice included:
• Lameasha E. Samples, 28
• Candice M. Ballinger, 34.
An indictment is a formal statement of charges and does not imply guilt, only that grand jurors believe the state has enough evidence to prosecute.