YORK COUNTY, Va. — A Yorktown woman is facing charges after the body of an 11-month-old was brought to a Newport News hospital on Tuesday afternoon, the York-Poquoson Sheriff's Office said.
Kristen Danielle Graham, 40, was charged with felony child neglect and misdemeanor animal cruelty. Sheriff Ron Montgomery announced the charges in a Wednesday morning news conference, where he detailed his office's investigation.
They are awaiting results from the Medical Examiner's Office for the official cause of death.
“These are not typical situations that we deal with in York County," Sheriff Montgomery said during the press conference. “That really hits home when it’s a small child like this and it’s so senseless when something like this happens.”
The investigation began after 4 p.m. Tuesday when a man in his 80s showed up at the emergency room of Bon Secours Mary Immaculate Hospital in Newport News and notified staff that he had the body of a child in his vehicle, which was parked by the entrance. According to Montgomery, staff members went to the car and found a trash bag with a child inside.
Within the next several hours, an investigation led to the arrest of Graham, who was the caretaker of the child, Montgomery said.
Investigators with the sheriff's office believe that Graham had been taking care of the child for around two days, and had looked after the child periodically before. The child's mother is a 17-year-old who lives in York County.
Around 1 a.m. Tuesday, Graham got a phone call from a friend who was in Newport News taking care of an elderly person there. According to Montgomery, Graham and her friend take turns taking care of that person. On the call, the friend asked Graham if she could bring cigarettes to them because she couldn't leave the elderly person.
That's when Graham put the child and a small dog in the back of the vehicle and drove to a 7-Eleven in Newport News, where she bought cigarettes and a bottle of apple juice. She then drove to the home in Newport News to give her friend cigarettes and stayed for a period of time.
Investigators believe that Graham returned back to her place in York County with the child around 8 a.m. Tuesday. According to Montgomery, when Graham got home, she turned the car off, rolled the windows up, and left the child and the dog inside.
“We believe, she left them, went in the house, went to sleep, and came back out, six hours later," Montgomery said. "The heat index was at least 100 degrees or more yesterday.”
In court documents obtained by 13News Now, investigators wrote that Graham told them she took a pain medicine called Gabepentin, which according to the Cleveland Clinic website, can cause tiredness.
Around 2 to 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, Graham woke up to a phone call and went outside to check on the child, who was dead at that point, Montgomery said. Graham brought the child inside and the man who took the child to the hospital put them in the plastic bag and drove to Mary Immaculate Hospital where he told doctors he had the baby in the back seat of his car. The dog had also died.
"Emergency room personnel from Mary Immaculate then went out to the car and in the rear hatchet of the vehicle, they found a black plastic trash bag and inside that bag, they discovered the deceased 11-month-old child," Montgomery explained.
Graham's charges could be upgraded to homicide depending on the autopsy results from the Medical Examiner's Office, according to Montgomery. She is being held at the Virginia Peninsula Regional Jail.