Judge sends Mount Jackson child abuse case to grand jury

Hirving Ayala

WOODSTOCK — Circuit Judge Kevin C. Black on Thursday certified multiple charges for consideration by a grand jury in the case of a Mount Jackson man accused of seriously injuring his 3-month-old daughter in September.

The charges against Hirving Ayala, 23, were certified after a preliminary hearing in Shenandoah County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court, where witnesses testified that the infant suffered severe injuries from the incident and that Ayala confessed to being rough with the child.

Ayala was originally charged with felony child abuse, failing to secure medical attention for a child and malicious wounding, along with two related misdemeanors. Black felt that there was probable cause to send the felonies to the grand jury, but that the prosecution did not prove malicious intent on the wounding charge. As a result, Black reduced the charge to unlawful bodily injury.

The infant’s step-grandmother testified at the hearing that the child was left in her care on the night of Sept. 12, and that the child was more “cranky” than usual. The woman said she noticed the bruising on the infant’s body while changing the child’s clothing, and took the child to the emergency room at Shenandoah Memorial Hospital.

The emergency room doctor testified that he examined the child and saw about five to 10 bruises on multiple parts of her body.

“Whenever she was moved she had a very weak cry,” the doctor said of the infant.

He said he sent the child for an X-Ray and saw multiple fractures in the infant’s bones, including her right thigh bone and on both sides of her ribs. The doctor testified that based on the appearance of the bruises, they were several days old, but he could not determine how old the fractures were. He elaborated that these injuries could not have come from one fall, as the infant’s mother allegedly told doctors when she arrived at the hospital. There were multiple bruises on different parts of the body, he testified.

The doctor also said that the bones could not have been fractured in a fall because  the elasticity of bones at that age make it difficult for them to break unless a “tremendous force” is applied. The infant had to be transferred to Inova Fairfax Hospital for further treatment of her injuries.

Investigator Scotty Thompson with the Shenandoah County Sheriff’s Office testified that he interviewed Ayala on Sept. 13 at Inova Fairfax Hospital, and that Ayala told investigators that he was at home with the child around 10 a.m. after coming home from working a midnight shift. Ayala told investigators that he woke up to the child crying after rolling off their shared bed, Thompson testified, and Ayala said he rolled over and reached down to pull the infant up by her leg with a fast jerking motion when he heard a crack. Ayala said he clasped his hands around her ribs to catch her before placing her back on the bed, Thompson said.

Thompson said Ayala emphasized that he never intended to hurt the infant, and that he didn’t want to tell anyone about the incident because he did not want additional criticism from his family that he was a bad father. Ayala did admit to being frustrated when the infant woke him up, Thompson testified.

David Hensley, Ayala’s attorney, argued that the court should dismiss the malicious wounding charge because there was no evidence of malicious intent required to prove the crime. Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Louis Campola argued that there was malice because of the force applied to the infant, and that Ayala admitted to being frustrated. The judge ruled in favor of the defense, and certified that there was probable cause for unlawful bodily injury rather than malicious wounding, which is a lesser but included offense under the same statute. Black also ruled that there was probable cause for the felony child abuse and failing to secure medical attention for a child charges to go to the grand jury.

This case will be presented to the grand jury on Dec. 20 in Shenandoah County Circuit Court. The jury will decide at that time if Ayala should be indicted for the crime. Ayala remains in custody without bond at Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren Regional Jail.