Attempted murder charge dropped in Castleton child abuse case

Brenda Holly Lyons-Lenchick, half of the Castleton couple facing child abuse and cruelty charges, pleaded guilty to two counts of child abuse and neglect and one count of neglect with the intent to maim in Rappahannock County Circuit Court Monday morning (March 11).

Lyons-Lenchick, 39, was previously charged with neglect with the intent to kill and attempted capital murder; as part of a plea agreement with Commonwealth’s Attorney Art Goff, the neglect charge was amended and the capital murder charge was dropped.

According to court documents, Lyons-Lenchick took her new infant child, referred to as KJL, to Dr. Susan Werner four days after he was born. KJL had been born with a cleft lip and palate and Werner provided Lyons-Lenchick with bottles and formula to feed the child. At that time, Werner recorded KJL’s weight as six pounds, six ounces – down from his birth weight of seven pounds, six ounces.

Lyons-Lenchick continued taking KJL to Werner for several more weeks, before missing an appointment on April 16, 2012. A month later, after Werner received a phone call telling her she was still listed as KJL’s doctor, Werner convinced Lyons-Lenchick to bring the child in for another visit.

Lyons-Lenchick originally said she was waiting for state health insurance to kick in, as her husband, Joseph Anthony Lenchick, had recently been laid off; Werner told her to bring the child and not to worry about the cost.

When she arrived for the appointment on May 12, Werner discovered KJL’s weight was 6 pounds, 2 ounces – 15 percent less than his birth weight. Lyons-Lenchick insisted she was feeding the child as instructed, but Werner found the child to be “emaciated . . . and unresponsive.”

Werner informed Lyons-Lenchick that Child Protective Services would have to be notified, according to the court documents, which upset her. KJL was stabilized and transported to the University of Virginia, where he was treated for kidney failure and began to recover, gaining a pound in just one day.

Lyons-Lenchick was interviewed by Capt. J.C. Welch of the Rappahannock County Sheriff’s Office (RCSO) on May 23. During that interview, which was the subject of an ultimately unsuccessful suppression motion in December after it was discovered Welch didn’t read the couple their Miranda rights, Lyons-Lenchick said that she was “under pressure” in caring for three special-needs children, being the only licensed driver and needing to drive Lenchick to various job interviews.

Lyons-Lenchick told Welch she originally “gave up” on KJL, intended for him to starve and had planned to bury him next to her grandfather in Pennsylvania. Lyons-Lenchick also said that around the same time that Werner called to make an appointment with KJL, she had changed her mind about starving KJL, which is part of the reason she brought him in to see Werner.

Lyons-Lenchick also told Welch that she did nothing after her husband removed leg casts from the couple’s three-year-old daughter with cerebral palsy. Dr. Mark Romness, who was treating the daughter at the time, said the casts were precursors to metal braces that could have allowed her eventually to be more mobile, and that removing them could have caused “irrevocable harm.”

Lyons-Lenchick is due to be sentenced June 12. Joseph Lenchick’s case is scheduled for a jury trial on April 4.

Jury decides Shankle needed a license to drive

Kenneth Boyd Shankle, 62, of Sperryville, was found guilty of driving with a revoked or suspended license and speeding (71 mph in 55 mph-zone) after a three-hour jury trial and was subsequently sentenced Wednesday morning (March 13) in circuit court.

RCSO deputy Chris Ubben testified that he pulled Shankle over last June 29 after clocking his speed on Route 231, where the posted speed is 55. Ubben said Shankle, who told the deputy he was transporting a friend to a doctor’s appointment, said he did not have a driver’s license and was aware his license had previously been suspended.

Ubben said that Shankle then handed him a piece of paper, identifying Shankle as a “sovereign citizen.” Shankle then said that because he was traveling for personal reasons, as opposed to commercial ones, he did not need a license.

Members of the sovereign-citizen movement, a loose affiliation of libertarian groups and like-minded individuals around the country, believe that they are not subject to any of the laws enacted at the federal, state or municipal levels.

According to the website sovereign-citizenship.net, the “sovereign” part of the title comes from Black’s law dictionary, which defines “sovereign” as “a person, body or state in which independent and supreme authority is vested; a chief ruler with supreme power; a king or other ruler with limited power.”

Essentially, sovereign citizens believe they are “severed from the government . . . [and] not a subject.” Thus Shankle also filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court last fall naming Rappahannock County, Goff, Deputy Ubben and District Court Judge J. Gregory Ashwell (who presided over Shankle’s initial hearing, where he was found guilty of the two charges he then appealed to the circuit court).

Shankle said he believes none of these authorities have jurisdiction to arrest or try him on the driving-related charges.

Lt. Roger Jenkins, also of the RCSO, testified that he had an encounter with Shankle on April 6. Jenkins said that when he asked Shankle if he was aware he was currently driving on a suspended license, Shankle replied, “I know, but I don’t need a license.”

Jenkins continued, saying that Shankle had handed him the same sovereign citizen paperwork he had handed to Ubben, but that Jenkins “chose not to read it,” a comment that produced audible gasps from several members of the crowd there to support Shankle.

Shankle contested the initial issuing of the ticket, saying that because there was no injury sustained in the matter, there was no violation. He also cited section 46.2-341.4 of the Code of Virginia, specifically several lines defining “commercial vehicle,” which he said proved that vehicles used only for personal transport did not require a license to operate.

“All I have done is exercised my God-given right to locomotion with no restriction,” Shankle said. “My only duty is to bring about no harm to a free man . . . it is a right to drive; it cannot be made a privilege.”

Goff cited “Commonwealth vs. W.O. Ellett,” a 1939 Supreme Court case that established traveling on public highways “is a common right . . . but may be regulated or controlled in the interest of public safety . . . The operation of a motor vehicle on such highways is not a natural right. It is a conditional privilege which may be suspended or revoked.”

After a 10-minute deliberation, the seven-member jury returned a guilty verdict on the charge of driving on a suspended license. Before reaching a sentencing decision, however, both Goff and Shankle were allowed to make a final argument.

“What will prevent Mr. Shankle from continuing to fly in the face of the law?” Goff asked the jury. “He doesn’t believe it’s a crime to drive without a license; it’s your job to convince him that it is . . . send a message – very loudly, very clearly – that it is.”

“I have a right that cannot be taken away,” Shankle said. “It is God-given and it cannot be regulated . . . I am no criminal. I give to this community every day; I have for years. I am appalled to stand here and be criminalized. Let it [the guilty verdict] be on your conscience.”

After a 20 minute deliberation, the jury returned with a recommended sentence of 20 days in jail and a $1,000 fine for the charge of driving on suspended license. The sentence for the speeding charge was left to Parker to decide.

“You report no harm done – the court disagrees. When people flaunt the law, there is harm done,” Judge Jeffrey W. Parker said before sentencing Shankle. “If everyone on the road were unlicensed, it would present a clear and present danger . . . You may feel you have a right to do that, Mr. Shankle. You do not.

“You. Do. Not,” Parker repeated.

Parker then imposed the jury’s recommended sentence and added an additional $100 fine for the speeding infraction. Shankle, escorted by deputies out of the courtroom to begin serving his jail sentence, has 30 days to appeal the circuit court’s decision. Shankle repeated several times during the course of the trial that he intends to do so.

Pleadings

Ismael Ramirez-Martinez, who was indicted by a grand jury in November on charges of driving without a license, carrying a concealed weapon and the illegal possession of a firearm, offered an “Alford plea” to the illegal possession charge in court Monday.

Under an Alford plea, a defendant admits that enough evidence exists to likely find them guilty of the crime he or she is charged with, without actually admitting guilt.

Summarizing evidence for the court, Goff said that Deputy Christopher Koglin pulled the 41-year-old Ramirez-Martinez over in September near Amissville after recognizing him from an earlier citation for driving without a license.

After pulling him over, Koglin noticed a .22-caliber rifle sitting in the back of the truck and, after searching the vehicle, also discovered a .22-caliber pistol in the truck’s center console. Goff said Ramirez-Martinez admitted he knew about the weapons, but claimed they belonged to his wife.

Goff said Ramirez-Martinez had been charged with malicious wounding, a felony, in New Jersey in the 1990s and was subsequently deported to Mexico. Goff said that previous felony conviction, reentering the country after being deported and the illegal possession charge made the case a federal matter.

Ramirez-Martinez was briefly taken into custody in Rappahannock County Jail before being turned over to federal authorities.

Last Thursday (March 6) in circuit court, 43-year-old Randy Lynn Smoot, of Washington, pleaded guilty to an amended charge of driving while intoxicated (DWI), the second such charge in five years.

Smoot’s charge was originally the third such offense, but after a 90-minute conference between Goff and Smoot’s attorney Jerry Talton, the charge was amended to a misdemeanor.

Briefly summarizing evidence for the court, Goff said Smoot was pulled over last May 28 by two RCSO deputies after they observed his vehicle swerve partly into the right shoulder. When they pulled him over, Goff said Smoot admitted to having “a few beers,” failed several parts of a field sobriety test and was eventually found to have a blood alcohol content of .09, which is above the legal limit in Virginia.

In recommending sentencing to Judge Parker, Goff asked for a 12-month jail sentence (with seven months suspended), a $2,500 fine ($2,000 suspended) and one year of unsupervised probation. He also recommended Smoot’s ability to operate a motor vehicle be suspended for three years, that he complete the Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program (VASAP) and have an ignition interlock (a device which detects a driver’s BAC and prevents the car from being started if it’s too high) for at least six months after he is again eligible to drive.

Parker agreed to Goff’s suggestions. Talton asked Parker for a several-day delay in Smoot reporting to Rappahannock County Jail, saying that he needed some time to make some job arrangements.

Parker agreed to a delay of several hours instead, giving Smoot until 8 p.m. that night to voluntarily report to jail, and cautioning him not to be late.

“There are fewer things I react harsher to than failure to report like this,” Parker said. “I’m giving you a huge break here and you’d better not be late or you’ll see a lot more [jail] time.”

Jury indicts two on drug charges

Two people – Holly Marie Yake and Paul Alexander White – were indicted on two counts each by a grand jury convened Monday morning (March 11). White, a 27-year-old Woodbridge resident, was directly indicted on one count of possession with the intent to distribute (marijuana) and one count of driving under the influence (DUI) of drugs and alcohol. White appeared in court Monday afternoon and was appointed a public defender. A hearing is scheduled for April 4.

Yake, 26, of Castleton, was directly indicted on two counts of possession, one for heroin and the other for oxycodone. Yake also appeared in court Monday afternoon and pleaded guilty to both charges.

Summarizing evidence for the court, Goff said that Deputy Koglin pulled Yake’s car over on Oct. 19 and noticed “a faint smell of marijuana coming from the vehicle.” Koglin and his canine unit searched the car and found a small plastic bag with oxycodone and a metal spoon with traces of heroin on it.

Yake’s sentencing date is June 6.