Former Norfolk daycare operator sentenced to 10 years after 2-year-old dies, another child seriously injured

A former Norfolk home daycare operator was sentenced Friday to 10 years in prison after being found responsible for the death of one child and serious injury of another.

Norfolk Circuit Judge Michelle Atkins also ordered Jessica Cherry be on good behavior for 20 years after her release from prison, and to not operate a daycare or supervise children during that time.

Senior Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Andrew Kolp had asked the judge to give Cherry the maximum penalty of 15 years allowed for the two charges she was found guilty of: involuntary manslaughter and child abuse. Kolp argued that Cherry had not taken responsibility for the crimes and needed to be held accountable.

“She sees herself as the victim,” Kolp said, quoting from statements Cherry made to a presentence investigator in which she complained about “all that had been taken” from her and “all that (she’d) been through” since being charged.

The investigation into Cherry and her daycare began Aug. 18, 2020, after 2-year-old Kaylee Thomas died while in Cherry’s care.

Cherry called 911 to report an unresponsive child that day. Kaylee was taken by paramedics to Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters, where she later died.

The forensic pathologist who performed Kaylee’s autopsy determined she died from asphyxia, or a lack of oxygen, caused by suspected smothering. The pathologist also noted the child had suffered significant blunt force injuries.

Cherry went to trial in August 2022 in that case. A jury convicted her of the lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years.

After being charged in Kaylee’s death, Cherry was charged with aggravated malicious wounding for an incident in which another child suffered a serious head injury while in her care.

That injury happened before Kaylee died. But no Child Protective Services or police investigation was done in that case, according to Cherry’s defense lawyer Emily Munn, so Cherry was able to continue operating her daycare.

Jane Harper,


  • Elizabeth Morin

    Elizabeth Morin is a writer based in Virginia Beach. She is passionate about local sports, politics and everything in between.

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