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UPDATED: Mother guilty in toddler twins abuse case – jury recommends no time served

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Tabitha Zimmerman in a 2018 mug shot - Courtesy Photo RSW Jail

FRONT ROYAL – If it was a boxing match it would have been ruled a split decision – on Wednesday evening, April 10, just over an hour after returning a guilty verdict on two counts of negligent child endangerment against 29-year-old Tabitha Zimmerman in the November 2017 death of her 22-month-old son Malakai and injuries sustained by twin brother Micah at the hands of her then fiancé Chad Ritchie, a six-man, six-woman jury recommended no time served and no fine on either conviction.

Zimmerman faced up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $2500 on each conviction. Actually a question submitted by the jury prior to its sentencing recommendation indicated a desire to credit Zimmerman for the eight months she served in RSW Regional Jail following her November 9, 2017 arrest prior to being released on bond. The jury also asked if a parenting class could be recommended for the defendant.

Judge Clifford L. Athey Jr. replied that neither of those were part of the sentencing options. One minute after returning to deliberations, a 10:30 p.m. knock on the jury room door indicated the jury was ready with its authorized sentencing recommendation.

As reported in Royal Examiner’s coverage of the first two days of the trial, the prosecution case against Zimmerman revolved around the contention there had been a long-term pattern of abuse by Ritchie that Zimmerman was aware of and allowed to continue. SEE RELATED STORY:

Zimmerman trial for failing to prevent child death, injuries inflicted by boyfriend begins

Ritchie was called as a prosecution witness against Zimmerman. Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Bryan Layton simply asked Ritchie, who entered an Alford guilty plea on the second day of his December trial, to verify his written account of the events of November 8, 2017, including his striking of the twins in the body and head while watching the children while their mother was on a 12-hour night shift at Rubbermaid where the couple had met.

However on cross examination by defense attorney John Bell, Ritchie was asked if he had ever previously struck the boys. “No,” Ritchie replied. Layton countered the impact of that answer by his witness by telling the jury during closing arguments that Ritchie had a tendency to minimize his wrongdoing toward the children, including the evening of Malakai’s death. SEE RELATED STORY:

Toddler death defense – ‘a horrific accident’ – prosecution ‘Really?’

Chad Ritchie mug shot from 2018, closer to the time of his December 2018 trial. Courtesy Photo RSW Jail

In both his closing argument against conviction, as well as an earlier motion to strike the commonwealth’s case against his client for a lack of evidence presented, Bell cited, not only the testimony of the prosecution witness who admitted to causing the injuries to the twins culminating in the death of one, but also the testimony of the commonwealth’s three expert witnesses.

Those witnesses were State Forensic Pathologist Meghan Kessler who did Malakai Zimmerman’s autopsy; Winchester Medical Center Forensic Nurse Betty Fisher who examined surviving brother Micah the evening of the incident; and Pediatrician Ashley Blanzit who treated the boys on a regular basis.

Bell told the jury Wednesday that all of the commonwealth’s expert witnesses had testified under cross examination that none of the older bruises, scabs or marks on the boys were of a nature to raise abuse alarm bells without the presence of the newer marks admittedly inflicted by Ritchie and determined to be the cause of Malakai’s death and Micah’s injuries of November 8, 2017.

Of one health concern for Malakai expressed by Pediatrician Blanzit, weight loss from 25 pounds at 18 months to 17 pounds at 21 months, the month before his death, Bell noted Kessler’s autopsy report indicating Malakai “was well-nourished” and weighed 33 pounds at the time of his death.

“Nobody saw it coming,” Bell told the jury. Those “nobodies” included the twins’ pediatrician who is bound by law to report signs of abuse; Tabitha Zimmerman’s parents in whose basement she and Ritchie had been living for two months prior to November 8, 2017; or the two prosecution expert medical witnesses who saw the children in the wake of Ritchie’s admitted violence of that November evening.

In arguing for a lower end jury sentencing recommendation Bell described his client as a twice broken woman: first at her own doing as an opioid addict; then as a mother whose twins had been the catalyst for her to kick her addiction and become a devoted, hard-working mother, again broken by the death of one child and injury and consequent legal separation from her surviving son due to the mistake “of trusting the wrong man”.

Bell added that once released from jail after her arrest for contributing to the death and injuries to her twins, rather than return through despair to addiction, she had reentered the workforce to again become “a productive member of society” who continued to pass drug screenings.

The remaining question, Bell asked the jury that had just convicted his client on a paucity of evidence “is how badly do you want to break her again?”

Twice placed on suicide watch at RSW Jail following her Nov. 9, 2017 arrest for negligent complicity in the death of one and abuse of both her twin boys, Zimmerman is wearing a strap-on protective vest indicative of prisoner’s who may try to harm themselves. Courtesy Photo RSW Jail

The fortunate answer for Bell and his client was not much at all.

Bell noted during sentencing arguments that his client remains on probation in Fauquier County for an earlier offense. With the potential of her probation being jeopardized by this conviction, we asked Bell if he might move to overturn the conviction or failing that, appeal the verdict.

Defense counsel said he would discuss those options with his client.

Judge Athey gave the defense 21 days to submit a motion to set aside the verdict; and the prosecution 21 days to respond if that defense motion is filed. If arguments are forthcoming on a defense motion, Athey set them for the June 21 circuit court docket.

Judge Athey must approve the jury sentencing recommendation. A final sentencing hearing date will be set following decisions on coming motions. SEE RELATED STORY:

Ritchie will serve 20 years in death and injuries inflicted to toddler twins

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Crime/Court

Front Royal man pleads guilty to dealing two fatal doses of fentanyl-laced heroin

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A Front Royal, Virginia man, who in the fall of 2017 distributed two fatal, fentanyl-laced doses of heroin, pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court in Harrisonburg to a drug charge that carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years in prison, and the possibility of a life sentence, Acting United States Attorney Daniel P. Bubar, Special Agent in Charge Jarod A. Forget of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Washington Division, and the Warren County Sheriff’s Office, announced.

Glenn Eugene Sovereign Jr., 43, of Front Royal, pleaded guilty today to two counts of distributing fentanyl.  Because the recipient of the distribution died from overdose by ingesting the fentanyl within, Sovereign faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years in prison and a maximum possible statutory penalty of life at sentencing.

Glenn Eugene Sovereign Jr. Photo / RSW Regional Jail

“When Sovereign trafficked fentanyl-laced heroin to an already-vulnerable group of people, he perpetuated their addiction and despair, and ultimately caused their death,” Acting United States Attorney Bubar stated today.  “Because of the hard work and persistence of our federal and state partners, Sovereign has been brought to justice and will spend the better part of his life in federal prison.”

“The threat fentanyl brings to our Virginia neighborhoods and families cannot be overstated. With overdoses across the area spiking in the past year, DEA Washington Division has been working hard to investigate and arrest egregious criminals such as this, who are blatantly distributing poisonous drugs and spreading death and violence across our communities.”

Sovereign admitted today that in the fall of 2017 he made regular trips from Front Royal, Virginia to Baltimore, Maryland in order to purchase heroin.

On October 24, 2017, Sovereign met with victim E.R. in Front Royal. E.R. purchased a small packet of heroin from Sovereign which contained fentanyl. Later that night, E.R. ingested the contents of the packet, and as a result died.

On or about October 25, 2017, Sovereign traveled to Baltimore to meet his source of supply, where he purchased one gram of heroin. When Sovereign returned to Front Royal, he met with victim N.C. at Sovereign’s residence where he and N.C. ingested 4-5 Ritalin pills together. Later, before Sovereign left for work, he provided N.C. with a small packet of heroin, which contained fentanyl. On or about October 26, 2017, N.C. ingested the contents of the packet, and she died.

The investigation of the case was conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration and Warren County Sheriff’s Office.  Assistant United States Attorney Christopher Kavanaugh is prosecuting the case for the United States.

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Sheriff’s Office seeks info on road rage shooting

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On Sunday, January 17, 2021, at approximately 7:15 PM, an alleged road rage incident involving two passenger vehicles was reported eastbound on John Marshall Highway in the area of Ashland Court. Witnesses described hearing a single gunshot, and when inspecting the trunk of their car, observed what appeared to be a bullet hole. The suspect vehicle was described as black 2007 Chevrolet Trailblazer with dark tinted windows, last seen travelling eastbound onto Interstate 66. Thankfully, no one was injured during the incident.

Anyone who has information regarding this incident is asked to contact WCSO Deputy John Gregory at (540) 635-4128.

Vehicle shown in photo is similar to suspect vehicle. Photo courtesy of Warren County Sheriff’s Office.

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Delaware man facing multiple charges after I-81 pursuit

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A New Castle, DE, man is behind bars on multiple charges after he fled law enforcement Sunday, January 10, 2021. Virginia State Police have charged Marquez D. Adams, 27, in Shenandoah County with one felony count of eluding law enforcement, one count of reckless driving by speed, one count of reckless driving failure to maintain control, one count of driving with a revoked license, and one count of driving with a phone in hand.

Marquez D. Adams. Photo / RSW Regional Jail

State Police initiated the traffic stop at approximately 7:50 p.m. as a 2002 BMW 330CI was traveling South on Interstate 81 at the 286 mile-marker in Shenandoah County. The violation was for speeding, as the BMW was driving 100 mph in a posted 70 mph zone.

The pursuit continued onto Rt. 42 in Woodstock, Rt. 11 in Edinburg, and in Mount Jackson before ending back on I-81 South. The BMW eventually ran off the left side of the roadway causing it to collide with a State Police patrol car before being contained on the right shoulder on I-81 at the 263-mile-marker. The driver, Adams, was taken into custody and transported to RSW Regional Jail and held without bond.

No troopers were injured during the course of the pursuit.

The pursuit reached speeds of up to 130 mph.


Vehicle pursuit through Warren County results in multiple struck vehicles before ending on 6th Street in Front Royal

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Vehicle pursuit through Warren County results in multiple struck vehicles before ending on 6th Street in Front Royal

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On Monday, January 11, 2021, at approximately 4:32 PM, a Warren County Sheriff’s Office deputy observed a Mercedes travelling at a high rate of speed in the area of Riverton. The WCSO deputy attempted to stop the Mercedes for a traffic violation in the area of 522 Park and Ride, and the driver of the Mercedes refused to obey and yield for the deputy. The driver of the Mercedes then crossed a concrete traffic barrier, driving into the opposite lane of travel where the Mercedes struck an occupied vehicle, failed to stop and then continued eastbound onto Interstate 66.

The driver of the Mercedes continued to accelerate at a high rate of speed and the deputy lost sight of the vehicle and terminated the pursuit. Within a short time after the termination of the pursuit, local citizens began calling the Warren County Sheriff’s Office Emergency Communications 9-1-1 Center to report a Mercedes driving recklessly, forcing other motorists off the road and passing dangerously across the double yellow lined roadway of John Marshall Highway travelling into the Town of Front Royal. WCSO deputies responded to that area and located the aforementioned Mercedes. As WCSO deputies attempted to stop the vehicle, the driver of the Mercedes continued to refuse to yield and took flight at a high rate of speed onto Leach Run Parkway.

The pursuit ended on 6th Street in the area of Manassas Avenue, in Front Royal, when it struck several parked vehicles and one occupied vehicle. Charges against the driver of the Mercedes, whose name was not released because they were determined to be a juvenile, are pending the Virginia State Police investigation of the collision. Warren County Sheriff’s Office was assisted by Warren County Fire and Rescue, Front Royal Police Department and Virginia State Police. Any questions pertaining to the crash investigation should be directed to the Virginia State Police.


Delaware man facing multiple charges after I-81 pursuit

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Accused 2008 murderer of Buddhist monk in Fauquier denied bond

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The 62-year-old Korean man arrested November 30 in Georgia for the 2008 murder of Du Chil Park, also known as Buddhist Monk Mogu, was denied bail in his first court appearance since being extradited to Fauquier County on December 15.

Won Yong Jung was in Fauquier County General District Court on December 23 seeking release on a cash bond. As initially reported by “Fauquier Now”, that bond was denied following a 20-minute hearing during which the prosecution described the knife attack on the 56-year-old Park as “brutal” and contended Jung remains a threat, not only to flee due to the gravity of the Second-Degree Murder charge and the top end 40-year sentence it carries, but to the community at large.

Accused murderer Won Yong Jung. Courtesy Photo Fauquier County Sheriff’s Office

As noted by Fauquier Now, in denying the bond request Judge Allison Coppage ruled for Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Jamey Cooke’s arguments that the defendant, who utilized an English to Korean translator during the hearing, had not effectively countered the prosecution’s case against bond. Jung’s next scheduled court date is April 8 for a preliminary hearing on the evidence at the root of the Commonwealth’s Second-Degree Murder case against Jung.

As Royal Examiner initially reported following Jung’s arrest in his home area of Duluth, in Gwinnett County, Georgia, over 12 years earlier Park’s body was discovered several days after his death from multiple stab wounds at his Free State Road property in Marshall. Information released by Fauquier authorities in the wake of his 2008 murder indicated Park came to America in 1998 and established the Jungtosa Zen Buddhist Temple in the Springfield area of Fairfax County, moving the temple to Marshall in March of 2004 and continuing his healing work in acupuncture and moxibustion, the latter also “an oriental medicine therapy”.

Born in Kyong Ju, South Korea around 1951-52, Fauquier authorities also noted that “in the 1970’s/80’s Park was an activist against former Korean military governments. He was imprisoned in 1974 for hiding an activist on the run and then became a Monk in 1978” and “operated a small temple in Chung Noung, a part of Seoul, where he treated poor people with acupuncture and moxibustion.”

A Warren County resident with connections to Park and his healing work as Monk Mogu, noted he often travelled to the Front Royal area to treat children and adults, some with serious physical disabilities. “His Mantra was always ‘to help alleviate pain for all sentient beings’,” that area friend told this reporter.

It will be interesting to hear the prosecution address motive in Jung’s alleged murder of Du Chil Park, or Monk Mogu as he was known to patients and friends of his temple.

Du Chil Park, also known as Monk Mogu – Courtesy Photo

Fauquier authorities make arrest in 2008 murder of Marshall-based Buddhist Monk

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Local man and woman arrested for vehicle theft

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On Monday, November 30, 2020, the Front Royal Police Department received two reports regarding thefts from vehicles. Incidents occurred at Front Royal Christian School, located at 80 N. Lake Ave. and the other at Commonwealth Assisted Living, located at 600 Mount View St. Security video footage was reviewed at Front Royal Christian School, which showed a dark-colored Escalade entering the parking lot. A female driver and male passenger were both seen entering vehicles without consent, where money was reported missing. The victim from Commonwealth Assisted Living reported her purse and wallet missing.

The suspects were identified as James Warren, 33, and Shawnte Mullins, 22, both of Front Royal. Warren and Mullins were contacted and interviewed. Both suspects admitted to their involvement in these incidents. The suspects also admitted to committing similar crimes in Frederick County, VA. James Warren was charged with 3 counts § 18.2-147 Climb into Vehicle/Boat to Commit Crime and 2 counts § 18.2-96 Petit Larceny. Shawnte Mullins was charged with § 18.2-147 Climb into Vehicle/Boat to Commit Crime and § 18.2-96 Petit Larceny.

James Warren, 33. Photo is courtesy of RSW Regional Jail. There is no photo available for Shawnte Mullins.

James Warren and Shawnte Mullins were arrested on December 21, 2020, without incident and transported to Rappahannock Shenandoah Warren (RSW) Regional Jail where they went before the magistrate and released on a $5000 secured bond. Their first court appearance will be December 29, 2020, at 10:00 am in Warren County General District Court.

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Jan
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12:30 pm Opioid Overdose and Naloxone Edu... @ Online Event
Opioid Overdose and Naloxone Edu... @ Online Event
Jan 29 @ 12:30 pm – 1:30 pm
Opioid Overdose and Naloxone Education @ Online Event
Save a Life: Free REVIVE! Opioid Overdose and Naloxone Education January 29th The Northwestern Prevention Collaborative and Northwestern Community Services Board will offer a free virtual REVIVE! Training on January 29th from 12:30 pm to[...]
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2:00 pm Paint Camellias with The Studio @ The Studio - A Place for Learning
Paint Camellias with The Studio @ The Studio - A Place for Learning
Jan 30 @ 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm
Paint Camellias with The Studio @ The Studio - A Place for Learning
We will paint these beautiful camellias on Saturday, January 30th at 2 pm at The Studio. This will be the first in a series of floral paintings we will do over the course of 2021.[...]
6:00 pm Parent’s Night Out @ Code Ninjas
Parent’s Night Out @ Code Ninjas
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Parent's Night Out @ Code Ninjas
Help Code Ninjas Front Royal celebrate our Grand Opening! We are hosting our first Parent’s Night Out! $35 per child, space limited to 5! – Drop them off. Go have fun. Just remember to pick[...]
6:00 pm Robert Burns Night 2021 @ Virginia Beer Museum
Robert Burns Night 2021 @ Virginia Beer Museum
Jan 30 @ 6:00 pm – 10:00 pm
Robert Burns Night 2021 @ Virginia Beer Museum
Known in medieval Celtic culture as a storyteller, verse maker, and composer, the word ‘Bard’ has become synonymous with the world’s greatest poets. However, few are as celebrated as Scotland’s own ‘National Bard’, Robert Burns,[...]
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10:00 am Course 1 Trauma-Informed Training @ Online Event
Course 1 Trauma-Informed Training @ Online Event
Feb 9 @ 10:00 am – 12:00 pm
Course 1 Trauma-Informed Training @ Online Event
The Warren Coalition, in partnership with Northwestern Prevention Collaborative, will offer area residents two opportunities to take a free, virtual Course 1 Trauma-Informed Training in February. This course is designed to provide information about identifying[...]
Feb
11
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6:30 pm Course 1 Trauma-Informed Training @ Online Event
Course 1 Trauma-Informed Training @ Online Event
Feb 11 @ 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm
Course 1 Trauma-Informed Training @ Online Event
The Warren Coalition, in partnership with Northwestern Prevention Collaborative, will offer area residents two opportunities to take a free, virtual Course 1 Trauma-Informed Training in February. This course is designed to provide information about identifying[...]
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13
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6:00 pm Parent’s Night Out @ Code Ninjas
Parent’s Night Out @ Code Ninjas
Feb 13 @ 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Parent's Night Out @ Code Ninjas
Help Code Ninjas Front Royal celebrate our Grand Opening! We are hosting our first Parent’s Night Out! $35 per child, space limited to 5! – Drop them off. Go have fun. Just remember to pick[...]
Feb
15
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9:00 am Free Tax Preparation @ Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
Free Tax Preparation @ Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
Feb 15 @ 9:00 am – 12:00 pm
Free Tax Preparation @ Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
Free tax preparation will be available again this year through the AARP Tax Aide at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Front Royal, Monday and Wednesday mornings beginning Feb. 15th. To make an appointment, please call[...]
Feb
16
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10:00 am Course 1 Trauma-Informed Training @ Online Event
Course 1 Trauma-Informed Training @ Online Event
Feb 16 @ 10:00 am – 12:00 pm
Course 1 Trauma-Informed Training @ Online Event
The Warren Coalition, in partnership with Northwestern Prevention Collaborative, will offer area residents two opportunities to take a free, virtual Course 1 Trauma-Informed Training in February. This course is designed to provide information about identifying[...]
Feb
17
Wed
9:00 am Free Tax Preparation @ Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
Free Tax Preparation @ Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
Feb 17 @ 9:00 am – 12:00 pm
Free Tax Preparation @ Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
Free tax preparation will be available again this year through the AARP Tax Aide at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Front Royal, Monday and Wednesday mornings beginning Feb. 15th. To make an appointment, please call[...]