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County mother to be sentenced for death of child


County mother to be sentenced for death of child

January 21, 2004

Daniel Drew

Manassas Journal Messenger

Jessica Hagmann was born in Moscow three years ago to parents who couldn't, or wouldn't, keep her.

She died at Inova Fairfax Hospital in August after being squeezed to death by her adoptive mother. Jessica, who had been in the United States less than a year, spent 74 percent of her short life alone.

Patrice Lynn Hagmann, 35, of 5606 Davis Ford Road, in the county's center, was found guilty by a judge after entering an Alford plea on Nov. 20. An Alford plea is tantamount to pleading no contest, where without acknowledging guilt, a defendant declares that prosecutors have enough evidence to convict.

She is scheduled to be sentenced in March.

According to court records: Jessica threw tantrums that sometimes lasted up to three hours, which 'consisted of flailing arms, legs and head.' Jessica, who would have turned 3 last week, beat her head against her crib, and frequently ran pigeon-toed with her hands behind her back.

Court records indicate Hagmann made a practice of wrapping her arms and legs around the toddler to 'calm her' during such fits.

On Aug. 8, Jessica went limp and never regained consciousness. She was taken to Potomac Hospital, then transported to Inova Fairfax, where, according to an autopsy report, doctors found evidence of brain damage caused by a lack of blood and oxygen.

The official cause of death was: 'smothering and mechanical asphyxia due to compression against an adult.'

Jessica's life ended in the living room; her 3-year-old brother -- the Hagmann's biological child -- was in the room, but ordered out by his mother after Jessica lost consciousness, records state. The boy is now in the care of Patrice Hagmann's mother.

'Anything she did [to control Jessica] ... was copiously researched, thoroughly researched and backed by authority,' said Hagmann's lawyer, Demetry Pikrallidas. Police seized from Hagmann's home two books: 'Help for the Helpless Child,' and 'Life Books: Creating a Treasure for the Adopted Child.'

Hagmann was direct-indicted by a grand jury in October. Prince William police, who investigated the case and forwarded evidence to the commonwealth's attorney's office for consideration, would not elaborate Tuesday on their investigation.

Hagmann and her husband Glenn adopted Jessica from an orphanage on Dec. 18, 2002. Before that date Jessica's medical history was unknown. In the eight months she was here, Jessica was a 'well-developed, well nourished' baby, Dr. Frances Field, a medical examiner, said in an autopsy report. Court records indicate that except for dirty fingernails, Jessica was well-groomed and clean, and lived in a 'very clean and neat' house in a safe, upper-middle class suburban neighborhood.

But doctors found significant injuries during Jessica's Sept. 10 autopsy. Pikrallidas said 'There is not one shred of abuse on this child.'

She was still wearing the diaper and two pink, elastic hair bands she had on Aug. 8 when authorities began their examination.

Jessica, who was blond with brown eyes, not even three-feet tall, and weighed only 27 pounds, was bruised all over her small body, literally from head-to-toe.

Field found five 'purplish' bruises near Jessica's right eye, seven on her forehead, two on her scalp, and one each on both cheeks. She also found a healing lesion on one palm and bruises on her upper body, leg and back as well as one on her abdominal area.

'This is an unfortunate accident,' Pikrallidas said. 'She's terribly remorseful.'

Prosecutors have recommended a 14-month prison sentence, the maximum allowable by law is 10 years. The minimum is one.

Hagmann's lawyer refused to comment on the recommendation. Prosecutors could not be reached Tuesday afternoon.

'By all accounts, Patrice Hagmann was and continues to be a model mother,' Pikrallidas said. 'This was a terrible accident that she is going to have to live with the rest of her life.'

Staff writer Daniel Drew can be reached at (703) 878-8065.

2004 Jan 21