A 20-year-old Waynesboro woman will spend at least four years in prison after being sentenced last week for leaving her baby unattended in his crib for as long as 15 hours, leading to his death in March 2018.
Prosecutors say Christan Haynes had left her 7-month-old son, Zayden, unattended in his crib while coming off a methamphetamine high. According to the results of an autopsy, the child had wound himself into a blanket and blanket fibers were found underneath the baby’s nails, said Waynesboro Commonwealth’s Attorney David Ledbetter.
On Wednesday, Waynesboro Circuit Court Judge Charles Ricketts sentenced Haynes to 10 years in prison, with six years suspended, well above Virginia’s sentencing guidelines of zero to six months jail time for the felony child abuse charge.
Haynes pleaded guilty to the abuse charge, a Class 4 felony, on March 27.
Ledbetter said the autopsy had been inconclusive, medical examiners citing unsafe bedding as the cause of death.
“Had the autopsy been [conclusive] we would have prosecuted the case under the theory of felony murder, that felony would have been felony neglect,” he said.
Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Elysse Stolpe, who prosecuted the case, previously said that on March 3, 2018, the Waynesboro Police Department and Waynesboro First Aid Crew responded to a call of an unresponsive child, who was found dead.
Inside Zayden’s crib was an adult-sized pillow, adult-sized fuzzy blanket and a bottle, according to Stolpe.
The last time the mother checked on her child was when she put him to bed the night before at about 11 p.m., Stolpe said, and Haynes heard him cry at about 10 or 11 a.m. the next morning. Stolpe, speaking to the News Virginian following Haynes’ March 27 plea, said the mother decided “to let him cry it out.”
When Haynes woke around 2 p.m., stopping first to take a selfie and post it on Facebook, she went to check on her child for the time in almost 15 hours. That’s when she found the boy was dead.
When placing a 911 call at 2:12 p.m., Haynes claimed to have been sleeping off meth she had smoked three days earlier when the baby wasn’t being attended, according to Stolpe. Haynes admitted to having smoked meth in the closet in the room where the baby was located with the baby in the room.
In addition to a 4-year active prison sentence, Haynes must serve 5 years of supervised probation upon her release.
Ledbetter said the sentencing guidelines in this case didn’t take into account all the facts that led to the baby’s death.
“The guidelines don’t really reflect the nature of the neglect,” he said.
The case also should be put to rest the idea that the use of illicit drugs such as meth and opioids are victimless crimes, Ledbetter said.
That idea “is just wrong. It leads to child abuse, child neglect. .... It’s a scourge of our society,” he said.