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Grand jury indicts man in child’s death: Mother of children indicted on felony child endangerment

Tabitha Zimmerman

FRONT ROYAL – A grand jury on Monday indicted a local man accused of killing his girlfriend’s child in November.

Chad Andrew Ritchie stands charged with second-degree murder for the Nov. 8 death of Tabitha Rose Zimmerman’s 22-month old son. Ritchie, 28, of 908 Blue Mountain Road, appeared in Warren County Circuit Court after the grand jury indicted him on the murder charge as well as one count of malicious wounding involving the victim’s twin brother and two counts of felony child endangerment.

The grand jury also indicted Zimmerman, 28, the mother of both children and Ritchie’s girlfriend, on two counts of felony child endangerment.

John Bell represents Zimmerman and immediately invoked his client’s right to a speedy trial, forcing Judge Clifford L. Athey Jr. to schedule a jury trial within a five-month window. Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Bryan Layton advised the court he would want to try both defendants together. Athey had to find dates suitable to try both defendants. Ritchie’s attorney, Jason Ransom, advised the court that he would want to sever the cases and likely planned to file a motion to do so.

Ultimately, Athey scheduled a jury trial for both Ritchie and Zimmerman for June 19-22. Athey granted Ransom’s motion to allow his partner, Jonathan Sylvester, to serve as co-counsel for Ritchie. Layton said he didn’t object, adding that the court’s practice has been to appoint two attorneys in murder cases.

Chad Ritchie

Ritchie and Zimmerman remain held at Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren Regional Jail without bond.

A criminal complaint filed in Ritchie’s case that originated in Warren County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court states that the Sheriff’s Office received a phone call from Zimmerman at 6:36 p.m. Nov. 6. She indicated that her son was not breathing. The mother stated that Ritchie, her boyfriend and a person caring for her two children, had called her and said he was with her son at their shared home on Blue Mountain Road. Ritchie told Zimmerman her son was not breathing, the complaint states.

Ritchie then called 911 and stated he was in the basement with the child. The boy was taken by ambulance to Warren Memorial Hospital where he was pronounced dead. The child had rectal injuries with fresh blood around the rectal area, abdominal bruising in several spots, bruises to the head, left ear bruising, blood inside his ear and a possible puncture wound to the lower left leg, the complaint states. The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner conducted an autopsy on the child and found the cause of death to be multiple blunt force traumas. The death was preliminarily determined to be a homicide.

A second boy, the twin brother of the first child, was seen at Warren Memorial Hospital and treated for injuries consisted with assault, the complaint in Ritchie’s case states. Investigators with the Sheriff’s Office responded to the hospital and began their investigation. During an interview with investigators, Ritchie admitted to assaulting both children, the complaint states.

A criminal complaint filed in Zimmerman’s case states that the mother told investigators she was “aware of a pattern of abuse by Ritchie on each of her children.”

During the execution of a search warrant on the Blue Mountain Road residence, a number of household poisons and other hazardous materials were accessible to the children, the complaint states. Preliminary medical tests on the surviving child show malnourishment over the last year and extensive physical abuse, the complaint notes.

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