By Alex Bridges -- firstname.lastname@example.org
WINCHESTER -- A single mother who let her 5-year-old wander several blocks from home in April pleaded guilty Monday to felony child neglect.
Judge John E. Wetsel Jr. sentenced Pamela Lynn Shand in Winchester Circuit Court to two years and six months in prison for the crime, suspending all but the 45 days she already has served in jail.
Felony child neglect carries a maximum of five years in prison.
Shand, 40, currently of 9300 Arlington Road, Manassas Park, lived in the 300 block of North Loudoun Street on April 28 when police said the boy wandered from her home to the intersection of North Kent and Baker streets. A passerby found the boy and called police.
Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Jason Caccamo told Wetsel officers then went to Shand's home and found the mother, who smelled of alcohol. Shand said she had fallen asleep but that she was waiting to pick up her son from the bus stop. It was past time for his bus to have arrived and Shand apparently had forgotten that she already picked up her son from the stop, Caccamo said.
Caccamo told the judge police responded to similar incidents involving the child and her mother eight times in two years. The child does have a disability, Caccamo said.
But Shand was not always the one at home supervising the children when the boy wandered out on previous occasions, said her attorney Howard Manheimer.
Shand told the judge she has two grown children in college and is raising four others, including the 5-year-old, by herself. The others are 15, 10 and 9 years old, she said.
Shand said she came to Winchester to find a school for her youngest son, who has a disability. But now she's trying to relocate to the Falls Church area where she works at a restaurant and where she has found a school that suits her youngest child's needs.
Shand explained she remains the sole provider for her children and did not receive support from their father or fathers. This prompted Wetsel to ask Shand if she had ever sought child support from her children's father or fathers. Shand said she had filed requests before but had not received any response.
Wetsel ordered Shand to abide by a safety plan prepared for her by the Winchester Department of Social Services. He also told her to file petitions seeking support through the Division of Child Protective Services.
While Shand did have at least two prior felony convictions, sentencing guidelines indicated the defendant should receive probation with no active time of incarceration.
At Caccamo's request, Wetsel dismissed a second count of child abuse and/or neglect against Shand from July 16.