Babysitter adfits felony child abuse

A Pulaski woman pleaded guilty to felony child abuse of a 6-month-old Tuesday despite the prosecutor’s refusal to offer a plea agreement for acts he termed, “supreme evil.”

“The innocence of a child is cherished, and we all know children lose their innocence at different times,” Pulaski County Commonwealth’s Attorney Justin Griffith told the court. Referring to photos of the injured child, he added, “We know the exact moment this baby lost his. You can see the innocence leave his face in these photos.”


Griffith noted, “The evidence speaks for itself even though the victim was too young to.”

Heather Amanda Gravley, 37, pleaded guilty to the most serious charge of child abuse in Virginia — one causing serious injury. The lack of a plea agreement left sentencing entirely up to the court.

According to Griffith, Gravley caused “abusive head trauma” that resulted in significant bruising to the child’s face. The incident occurred Oct. 18, 2019. Gravley has been in jail since Nov. 15, according to jail records.

“The defendant reported numerous versions of what actually happened, including striking the child with the palm of her hand. She claimed to be under the influence of oxycodone, which she injected while babysitting the child and had no memory of what happened,” Griffith said.

“The defendant is no doubt a drug addict; however, she is capable of making reasoned decisions. She gathered a drug kit at her house, brought it with her to the child’s home, hid the kit from the child’s parents, and checked on the child before injecting herself with oxycodone,” he said.

Gravley should have known the drugs could render her incapable of caring for the child, Griffith added.

“Addiction isn’t something you volunteer for but agreeing to be the caregiver of someone else’s child is. Addiction is real but so are the insidious consequences,” he said. “What took place on that day to that innocent baby was supreme evil.”

Griffith called for the maximum sentence, saying Gravley deserves no mercy.

“She deserves 10 years in prison — the maximum punishment — not because her addiction rendered her inhuman, but because what she did was inhumane.

“She can ask that the court have mercy on her. Make no mistake the Commonwealth’s Attorney of Pulaski County is asking for none. She can ask the family of that child to forgive her, but the Commonwealth’s Attorney of Pulaski County doesn’t,” Griffith said.

Circuit Court Judge Bradley Finch did impose a 10-year sentence, but he suspended seven years, four months, leaving Gravley two years, eight months to serve. The active sentence was the maximum recommended sentence under state sentencing guidelines.

Virginia inmates typically serve about 85% of their sentence. With credit for the 11 months she has already served awaiting trial, Gravley most likely will have about 16 more months to serve.

She will be placed on 10 years of supervised probation upon release.

Public defender Nathan Roberts said his client isn’t evil and understands she has to be punished for her actions. Calling for a one-year sentence, he acknowledged she has a long history of drug addiction and other problems.

Gravley, who was sentenced via video link from New River Valley Regional Jail, apologized to the boy’s family, her own family and Judge Finch, calling the abuse “the worst mistake I have ever made.”

After court, Griffith said he was disappointed Gravley didn’t receive the maximum punishment, which he noted should be more than 10 years.

“Make no mistake I don’t regret seeking no mercy and I would do it all over again,” he said.

Griffith commended Pulaski Police Department and Pulaski County Department of Social Services for conducting a “flawless investigation” into the case.

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