Norfolk woman accused in death of 2-year-old will now face a grand jury

jessica cherry.png
Posted at 2:39 PM, May 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-17 19:04:05-04

NORFOLK, Va. -- Jessica Cherry, a woman accused of murder in the death of a 2-year-old toddler, faced a judge Monday inside the Norfolk Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court for what would have been her preliminary hearing. As soon as it started, it ended.

The judge said Cherry waived her right to the preliminary hearing, and she will now face a grand jury in June.

Norfolk Police said Cherry ran an in-home daycare on Jenifer Street, which is where they found the child unresponsive. The child was taken to the hospital and later pronounced dead.

Neither her defense nor the Commonwealth could comment on what happened, but attorney Happy O’Brien with the firm Sheppard and O'Brien provided analysis on the happenings inside the courtroom. He also explained why someone would waive their right to a hearing.

“One could be that the evidence is overwhelming and there’s no purpose to go forward with a preliminary hearing. It may be something redundant to do,” O’Brien explained. “The other more likely, I would think in the situation, is that there is a deal -- a plea deal that’s already being worked down between the Commonwealth attorney and the defense attorney."

As for the second-degree murder charge, O’Brien said the charge can carry a maximum of 40 years in prison.

Had the hearing happened, O’Brien said the Commonwealth would have presented evidence to prove Cherry was guilty.

“It doesn’t necessarily mean that the Commonwealth has a slam-dunk case; it could just mean that the defense attorney, in their opinion,” O’Brien said, “felt that there was enough evidence to get over the hurdle of the preliminary hearing."

Now, it will be the grand jury that will hear that evidence.

“In a matter like this in Virginia, the defendant and the defendant’s attorney are very rarely,” O’Brien said, “if ever, part of the grand jury proceeding."