Charges dismissed in abuse case

ELKINS – Charges were dismissed without prejudice Wednesday against a woman accused of striking her child with a plastic coat hanger until it broke. The agreement was part of a pre-trial diversion granted in Randolph County Circuit Court.

Shaunna Yokum, 31, of Beverly, was indicted on one felony count of child abuse resulting in injury and one misdemeanor count of domestic battery on Oct. 28, 2013.

Yokum has been attending individual counseling to deal with anger management, and to help with coping skills and parenting skills, and must continue to do so as a term of the diversion agreement.

Another term of the diversion states that Yokum is not allowed to discuss the circumstances surrounding the case with the victim unless it is in a therapeutic setting monitored by a mental health professional.

Senior Status Judge Thomas Keadle, who presided over the hearing, explained to Yokum the terms of the diversion before granting it.

“You will basically be put on probation, without being convicted at this point. If you comply for that for the next two years, 24 months, successfully, your charges will be dismissed. If you don’t comply, you will be brought back and tried in this case…,” Keadle said.

According to the criminal complaint filed in Randolph County Magistrate Court, a child under 7 years of age told a Randolph County school employee “that her mother had struck her with a coat hanger until it broke.”

The child said her mother, Yokum, had then locked her in her room for 30 minutes until her father came home. The school employee informed Child Protective Services there were “visible marks on (the child’s) left and right arms and welts are apparent,” according to the complaint.

Upon interviewing the child, a CPS worker observed bruising on the child’s right and left arms. The child told the CPS worker her mother struck her with a coat hanger and had previously hit her with a belt, according to the complaint.

Senior Trooper S.E. Hevener with the Elkins detachment of the West Virginia State Police executed a search warrant on Yokum’s residence. When Hevener went into the child’s bedroom, Yokum reportedly asked him, “What are you looking for, the coat hanger?” and informed him she’d placed it in the trash, the complaint states.

Yokum then retrieved a white “J-shaped” piece of a plastic coat hanger from a trash can in the kitchen and handed it to Hevener.

During the digitally recorded interview that ensued at the state police barracks, Yokum testified the child had been jumping on the couch and had “talked back to her.” Yokum said she smacked her child, grabbed the child by the elbow and took the child into her bedroom, the complaint states.

The child then allegedly began throwing things at her and Yokum approached the child with the intent to remove the “things” from her hands, according to the report.

“The suspect (Yokum) advised the hanger was right there and it was a ‘knee-jerk’ option to smack her with the hanger,” Hevener wrote in the complaint. “(Yokum) advised (the child) began trying to hit and kick again so she smacked her again with the hanger.”

Yokum told Hevener the child “didn’t know what was going on” and was “probably loving the attention this incident is producing.”

“The suspect (Yokum) advised when her daughter talks back and makes bad comments to her, it hurts her feelings,” Hevener stated in the report.

Also in Randolph County Circuit Court Wednesday:

  • James Edman Hoskinson, 49, of Elkins, was sentenced to one to three years in a state penitentiary, but was granted an alternative sentence of home confinement, and was fined $3,000 plus court costs.

Hoskinson had pleaded guilty to one felony count of DUI, third offense, as part of a plea agreement. The state agreed to dismiss one misdemeanor count of driving revoked for DUI.

Senior Status Judge Thomas Keadle told Hoskinson, as he sentenced him, that he was fortunate to receive an alternative sentence and that he would be put in jail if he violated his home confinement.

“Let me tell you something, Mr. Hoskinson, you are right on the edge of going to the penitentiary and it won’t take much to put you over,” Keadle said.

“If the probation officer would have said ‘yes, I tested him after he went on bond and he tested positive,’ you would have been gone. What I am going to do is I am going to sentence you, then I’m going to allow you to serve that sentence by way of an alternative sentence of home confinement.

“If you violate your home confinement in any way, especially drinking or using drugs, and that is reported to me and you get brought back into this courtroom, bring your toothbrush with you because I’ll tell you where you are headed, it’s not back home,” Keadle said.

– Sentencing of Rebecca Lou Blankenship, 40, was continued Wednesday because her defense attorney was unable to be present at the proceedings.

Blankenship was convicted by a jury of one felony count of driving while license revoked for DUI, third or subsequent offense, one misdemeanor count of no insurance and one misdemeanor count of no registration on May 15.

Her sentencing is rescheduled for 9 a.m. July 9.