Mom gets time served for death of young kids
By ASHLEY McLEOD, Staff writer
Jul 3, 2014, 11:43
HENRICO — A Prince George woman won't spend any more time in jail for the death of her two children, who were left in a hot car while she worked at a hotel.
Brittney Rochelle Downing, 23, was sentenced in a Henrico courtroom Tuesday on charges stemming from the death of her 20-month-old son and 3-month-old daughter. Downing, who resides in Prince George County, was given a total sentence of 7 years, 6 months, and 32 days, with all but 32 days suspended. But Downing has already spent longer than that in jail before a $130,000 bond was approved in August.
In May of 2013, Downing went to work at the Comfort Suites, located on Telegraph Road in Glen Allen. While working, her two children, 20-month-old son, Jelani Downing-Batson, and three-month-old daughter, Jade Downing-Batson, sat in her car in the hotel’s parking lot.
According to testimony at the sentencing hearing, Downing went to check on her children during her lunch break, and said they were at the time acting normal. Downing gave Jelani some chips and juice, and Jade a bottle before returning to work.
“My thought was that as long as they were happy and still functioning, I didn’t see anything wrong,” Downing said during her testimony.
Downing said that upon getting off of work, she observed Jelani in the backseat, who appeared to be nodding off to sleep.
When Downing arrived home to her apartment in Prince George, she carried the two young children inside, placing Jelani in bed, and Jade in her crib. Downing's sister came to the apartment with her mother, and noticed Jelani was not breathing. The paramedics were called, and then the family then noticed problems with Jade.
Fifteen minutes later, the paramedics arrived, and pronounced Jelani dead at the scene. Jade was taken to the hospital, where she was put on life support. The 3-month-old died four days later.
During the sentencing, Downing expressed remorse for her actions, and took full responsibility for the death of her children.
“I had no idea something like this would even happen, and I take full responsibility for what I did,” said Downing, who was emotional throughout the testimony as well as the rest of the hearing.
Henrico’s Commonwealth’s Attorney Shannon Taylor questioned Downing’s mother, Pamela, on whether it seemed her daughter had issues handling the two children and working. Pamela stated that she and her husband helped Brittney out with babysitting, as well as helping her to pay rent or bills when Brittney was unable to do so.
Downing described her daughter as a mother who was "very protective, very loving, who was determined to provide a good home environment for her children."
Before the birth of her children, Downing was an honor roll student at Thomas Dale High, and was accepted to Norfollk State University on an engineering scholarship. After attending for two year, Downing learned she was pregnant, and left school.
Taylor also questioned Carvil Botson during the hearing, who is the father Jade and Jelani. Botson sometimes watched his son Jelani, but not Jade. The Friday before the incident occurred, Jelani was with Botson, and Jade was in her car seat inside Downing’s car while Downing worked.
On Saturday, the two children were watched by Downing’s parents. According to Downing’s mother, she had asked her daughter where the children would be while Downing was at work on Sunday. Downing responded that she had a sitter, although she did not. According to Botson and Downing’s parents, all were available to watch the two children if they had been asked, which they were not, resulting in the events to occur that led to the death of the two children.
Botson also spoke to the courtroom about his anger and hatred towards Downing for her actions, and how hard it has impacted his life.
“It’s been a heartache every morning when I wake up. He was my heart and soul,” Botson said about his son Jelani.
Although angry at first, Botson said he learned to forgive Downing for what she had done, and said that she feels remorse and pain about what she did.
Downing broke into sobs when Henrico Judge Gary Hicks announced her sentencing for the three charges, which was well below the sentencing guidelines for her crimes. The midpoint of the sentencing guidelines was about three years. The maximum sentencing Downing faced was 25 years. Downing was also given 100 hours of community service and probation.