MARTINSBURG – A Berkeley County man accused of starving of his 5-year-old son and 3-year-old daughter and forcing them to sleep in an unfinished basement pleaded guilty Monday to two counts of child abuse causing serious bodily injury as part of a plea agreement.
Jesse A. Lafferty, 34, who is currently incarcerated at Eastern Regional Jail, was originally named in a seven-count indictment issued in February 2011 by a Berkeley County grand jury. The agreement resulted in the dismissal of the remaining counts.
Lafferty is scheduled to be sentenced July 16 by West Virginia 23rd Judicial Circuit Judge Christopher Wilkes and is represented by local attorney Christopher Prezioso. As part of the plea agreement, the court will be unfettered in sentencing. Lafferty faces two to 10 years in prison on each of the counts.
“I willfully withheld food from my children in order to punish them, which led to neglect and malnutrition, sir,” Lafferty told the court.
Berkeley County Prosecuting Attorney Pamela Games-Neely told the court that the state’s evidence would show that there were periods of time where food was withheld from the two victims for more than 24 hours at a time as punishment and that during certain weeks the children were sometimes not fed for periods of three to four days. When the children were rescued by authorities, Games-Neely said they were found to be severely malnourished and had distended abdomens similar to starving children from third-world countries.
“Let the record show that the defendant has executed the written guilty plea form. … Sir, are you sure this is how you want to resolve this matter?” Wilkes asked the defendant.
“Yes,” responded Lafferty, who was shackled and wearing an orange prison jumpsuit.