Charlottesville Woman Pleads Guilty to Child Abuse

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Karen Monique Barnes Karen Monique Barnes
Marchella Alexander Junior Marchella Alexander Junior
Shauntia Tia Alexander outside Charlottesville Circuit Court Shauntia Tia Alexander outside Charlottesville Circuit Court
Marchella Alexander Senior outside Charlottesville Circuit Court Marchella Alexander Senior outside Charlottesville Circuit Court

A Charlottesville woman is pleading guilty for her role in an infant's death.

Authorities charged 49-year-old Karen Monique Barnes with one count of child abuse after 2-month-old Marchella Alexander Jr. was found dead inside a home on Garrett Street on August 22, 2016.

Barnes entered a guilty plea to that charge in Charlottesville Circuit Court on Tuesday, October 3. A two-day jury trial had been scheduled to get underway on October 5.

According to authorities, Barnes had been entrusted with Marchella’s care while the child’s mother, Shauntia Tia Alexander, served a short jail sentence for driving on a suspended license. According to social workers the infant's father, 30-year-old Marchella Alexander Sr., was not to be left alone with his son.

According to authorities, the father was present at the time of Marchella's death, but Barnes was not at the home. They also said Alexander Sr. was under the influence of drugs and alcohol the night he was caring for his son.

Investigators were not able to determine with absolute certainty how Marchella died. Prosecutors claimed that during a jailhouse phone conversation Alexander Sr. said that he may have, "smothered" Marchella, and "tucked him too tight" as he held the infant while falling asleep the night before.

Tuesday, Barnes admitted to leaving the infant alone in Alexander Sr.'s care. She is scheduled to be sentenced on February 15.

Marchella's mother said she is not happy with Tuesday's result because it means her nightmare isn't over yet: “The sentencing report is on my son's birthday. You think that's going to make me feel happy? When you can do all of this now?” Shauntia Tia Alexander said outside of court.

The commonwealth is recommending a six-month sentence for Barnes, split between jail and home monitoring.

“Two years? Dragging this [expletive] on for two years? So you can spend time with your family? I can't never get my son back. Never,” said Marchella's mother.

Alexander Sr. pleaded guilty to one felony count of child endangerment on April 27. A judge gave him a five-year suspended sentence on September 5. As part of the sentence, Alexander Sr. is not allowed unapproved, unsupervised contact with children under the age of two, and must remain drug and alcohol-free.