Preliminary hearing set in child’s death

FRONT ROYAL — A December preliminary hearing has been set for the local man and woman charged in the death of a 22-month-old boy.

Chad Andrew Ritchie, 28, is accused of fatally assaulting the victim on Nov. 8 while the child’s mother, Tabitha Rose Zimmerman, 28, was away from their Blue Mountain Road home, the criminal complaints  states. The child was transported that evening to Warren Memorial Hospital where he was pronounced dead. The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner ruled the preliminary cause of death  to be multiple blunt force traumas.

There was also evidence of blood inside the ear and around the rectal area of the deceased child, as well as a possible puncture wound to the lower left leg and several bruises to the abdomen, head and left ear, the complaint alleges.

The deceased child’s twin brother was also admitted to the hospital to be treated for non-life threatening injuries “consistent with assault,” a criminal complaint states. Medical tests on the surviving twin allegedly show evidence of malnourishment over the last year along with “extensive physical abuse.”

The complaint against Ritchie alleges that he admitted to assaulting both children in an interview with investigators, and the complaint against Zimmerman alleges that she was “aware of the pattern of abuse by Ritchie on each of her children.”

Lt. Phillip Henry with the Warren County Sheriff’s Office declined to confirm the names of the victims, and declined to comment on the health status of the surviving child. Henry did confirm that the Nov. 8 murder was the first in Warren County outside of Front Royal town limits since the December 2014 killing of cab driver Simon Funk.

Ritchie was charged with second-degree murder, malicious wounding and two counts of child cruelty. Zimmerman was also charged with two counts of child cruelty.

Zimmerman, according to court documents, has a criminal history of misdemeanor petit larceny and shoplifting from 2013 and 2014, and has a history of drug charges including  heroin distribution in 2013. She pleaded guilty to two of  four distribution charges in July 2014 as part of a plea agreement, which called for her to be sentenced to 10 years imprisonment with all but nine months suspended. She was also accused of violating her probation on multiple occasions.

Ritchie’s criminal history includes misdemeanor theft charges in Maryland, court documents state.

A preliminary hearing for Ritchie and Zimmerman has been set for Dec. 28 in Warren County Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court. Both are being held without bond at Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren Regional Jail.

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