Five years probation for death of child

Date: 2004-03-11

Five years probation for death of child

March 11, 2004
Maria Hegstad
Manassas Journal Messenger

Patrice Lynn Hagmann, 35, was sentenced to serve five years of probation Thursday, after she accidentally smothered her adopted two-and-a-half-year-old daughter to death in August 2003.

Hagmann, of 5606 Davis Ford Road, entered Alford pleas to charges of felony child abuse and involuntary manslaughter in November 2003. In an Alford plea, a defendant does not admit guilt but acknowledges that prosecutors have sufficient evidence to convict.

Prince William Circuit Court Judge Herman A. Whisenant Jr. sentenced Hagmann to five years for each charge, and suspended the entirety, dependent on the five years probation. As he announced his decision, friends and family members in the courtroom erupted into tears.

Hagmann's defense attorney said Jessica died during a tantrum, and Hagmann was trying to control her, using a method she read about in a book entitled 'Holding Time.'

'She was trying to stop this child from hurting herself, trying to subdue a tantrum,' defense attorney Demetry Pikrallidas said. 'She blames herself. It was too long, too much and it suffocated the pathways of this child.'

Hagmann sobbed throughout most of the sentencing hearing, as her mother and the executive director of the adoption agency that arranged for Jessica's December 2002 adoption from a Russian orphanage testified on her behalf.

'She was coming in to see me in the night and crying and asking, 'How do you live with yourself after you cause the death of your child?' ' Hagmann's mother testified.

Hagmann and her husband have one biological son, 4, who is now in Hagmann's mother's care.

Court records indicate Jessica had tantrums that sometimes lasted as long as three hours, and consisted of 'flailing arms, legs and head.' Jessica beat her head against her crib and often ran pigeon-toed. Court records indicate Hagmann wrapped her arms and legs around Jessica to calm her.

Medical examiner Dr. Frances Field noted bruises all over Jessica's body in her autopsy report. Field found five 'purplish' bruises near Jessica's right eye, seven on her forehead, two on her scalp, a bruise on each of her cheeks, and further bruises on her upper body, leg, back and abdomen.

Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Claiborne T. Richardson II recommended Hagmann serve 14 months in jail. Judge Whisenant could have sentenced her to a maximum 10 years in jail.

'In order to cause this death, she had to be placed upon the body [so Jessica] couldn't get any air for a period of time after she went limp,' Richardson said.

Staff writer Maria Hegstad can be reached at (703) 369-6594.

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