By Alex Bridges
Shenandoah County prosecutors dropped a child-endangerment charge against a man whose fiancée stands accused of murdering his son.
Authorities had charged Jeremy A. Vermillion with one count of endangerment of a child while in one's custody after his toddler-age son died June 3.
Nicole Dawn Miller, 26, identified as Vermillion's fiancée at the time of child's death, stands charged with capital murder and could face the death penalty if convicted.
Prosecutors also blamed Vermillion, the child's biological father and primary custodian, for not helping the toddler before the incident.
At a hearing in Shenandoah County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court on Nov. 7, Judge William Sharp Jr. granted a motion by Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Louis Campola seeking to dismiss the charge against Vermillion. However, under the motion the prosecutor can seek to revive the charge. It is not uncommon for prosecutors to ask to dismiss a charge in a lower court only to seek an indictment by a grand jury in the same case.
Officers with the Woodstock Police Department responded to Vermillion's residence for a report of a toddler not breathing. Officers noticed "several suspicious bruises" on the child's body, according to a criminal complaint filed for an arrest warrant served on Vermillion.
The child later died at the University of Virginia Medical Center as a result of non-accidental trauma, according to the complaint.
Investigators interviewed Vermillion after the incident.
"Vermillion admitted to seeing bruises on the child prior to the incident; however he failed to render necessary medical attention to the child," the complaint states. "Doctors who cared for the child ... said it was impossible for a child of this age to cause such injuries to themself [sic]."
Miller remains held without bond in the Shenandoah County Jail on the charge of capital murder. The maximum punishment for a conviction of capital murder in Virginia is death.
Judge Dennis L. Hupp has scheduled Miller's next appearance in the circuit court for Dec. 4. After her indictment this summer, Hupp appointed Harrisonburg attorneys John C. Holloran and William W. Eldridge IV as Miller's defense counsel. At her most recent court appearance Sept. 18, records note that the defense did not request discovery evidence from the commonwealth at that time. Defense did request a tentative trial date for sometime in November 2014.
Commonwealth's Attorney Amanda Wiseley has filed a notice of intent to seek the death penalty against the defendant in the case. Wiseley states in the notice that "there is a probability that the Defendant had committed criminal acts of violence that would constitute a continuing serious threat to society and/or that her conduct in committing the offense for which she stands charged was outrageously or wantonly vile, horrible or inhuman in that it involved torture, depravity of mind or an aggravated battery to the victim."
Hupp also has granted a request by the defense for a court-appointed, fact and mitigation investigator in the case. The commonwealth attorney's office did not object to the defense request. The court allowed the defense to hire Doris Pye as its fact-and-mitigation investigator at a rate of $75 per hour, with a cap of $3,500. Counsel would need to come back to the court and ask for more funds should the cost for her services reach the cap, the judge's order states.
The defense request indicates that Pye has been appointed to serve as such an investigator in 11 capital cases in state and federal jurisdictions. Pye also has aided defense counsel in 22 capital murder cases after an initial conviction.
Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or firstname.lastname@example.org