Utah Mother Arrested For Felony Child Abandonment

A Utah mother was arrested for felony child abandonment after authorities found her children to be living in deplorable circumstances.

Unsafe living conditions

39 year old Virginia Mary Martinez, a resident of the Shivwits Indian Reservation in Washington County, Utah was arrested after officers responding to a call about a loud verbal fight found Martinez living in a trashed trailer along with two small children. The young children, ages 2 and 3, were dirty and hungry with visible skin ailments due to the living conditions. The home Martinez and the children were living in was falling apart and crawling with bugs. After an investigation into the conditions at the Martinez home, the Division of Child and Family Services removed the toddlers and Martinez was arrested for child abandonment.

Child abandonment

Utah Code 76-5-109 regarding child abuse states: “Child abandonment’ means that a parent or legal guardian of a child;
• . . . Intentionally fails to make reasonable arrangements for the safety, care, and physical custody of the child; and
• . . . intentionally fails to provide the child with food, shelter, or clothing . . .
A person who commits child abandonment . . . [is] guilty of a felony of the third degree”.


Martinez is reported by a family member to have a possible drug problem and had admitted to not being able to obtain food for her children as she had no means of transportation. Now that Martinez has lost her children for an undetermined period and is behind bars, let this be an opportunity for her to obtain treatment for her addictions and hopefully be healthy enough to be reunited with her children later on. For more information on drug treatment options for those who are trying to raise children while fighting addiction, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration National helpline at 1-800-662-HELP. For legal counsel contact a criminal defense attorney.

Intentional Child Abuse Charges for Utah Mom Who Locked Son in Bathroom for a Year

A southern Utah mom is facing intentional child abuse charges after authorities discovered she had been keeping her 12 year old son locked in a bathroom for over a year.

Neglected basic needs of a child

Photo by : Purgatory Correctional Facility

Photo by : Purgatory Correctional Facility

Authorities responded to a welfare check at a southern Utah home after a dramatically underweight and malnourished 12 year old boy was brought into the local hospital by his father. Police obtained a warrant and searched the home of the boy’s mother, 36 year old Brandy Jaynes of Toquerville, Utah. There were three children who were living in the home with Jaynes; two of the children appeared to be in normal health while police found evidence that the emaciated boy who was brought into the hospital had been living in a locked bathroom among his own feces ,with no light and little to no food.

Intentional child abuse

Photo by: C.P.Storm

Photo by: C.P.Storm

The 36 year old mother of three was booked into Purgatory Correctional Facility on a $10,000 bail and is facing up to 15 years in prison for second degree intentional child abuse. According to Utah Code 76-5-109, “any person who inflicts upon a child serious physical injury ( . . . ) is guilty of an offense as follows: If done intentionally or knowingly, the offense is a felony of the second degree. “ This section defines seriously physical injury as “injuries that:

(A) seriously impairs the child’s health;

(B) involves physical torture;

(C) causes serious emotional harm to the child; or

(D) involves a substantial risk of death to the child.

Serious physical injury includes: ( . . . ) any conduct toward a child that results in severe emotional harm, severe developmental delay or intellectual disability, or severe impairment of the child’s ability to function; ( . . . ) any conduct that results in starvation or failure to thrive or malnutrition that jeopardizes the child’s life.”

Locked away and forgotten

Aggravated Intentional Child Abuse

Photo by: Joel Penner

Investigators are attempting to piece together information surrounding this family and the public is demanding to know why no one had checked on the boy earlier. By the time his father took him to receive medical treatment, the boy weighed 30 pounds and could not stand and support his own weight. The 12 year old boy had been taken out of school over a year prior to the search on the Toquerville Utah home yet neither school officials, neighbors, family, nor friends had apparently inquired of the boy’s whereabouts. One of the siblings admitted to knowing their brother was in the bathroom and had spoken to him through the door, but it had been months since they last spoke. It is not known where the father of the boy was during the boy’s bathroom imprisonment, and whether or not he had any knowledge of the circumstances his son had been living in for an extended period of time.

Mindset of a troubled parent

Photo by: Porsche Brosseau

Photo by: Porsche Brosseau

Police are understandably concerned with the irrational thinking of the mother who claimed the malnourished boy wanted to sleep in the bathroom and that she felt she was keeping him safe in the locked room while she was away from the house. Although the boy was obviously neglected and living in horrible circumstances, the mother was keeping an eye on him. There was Wi-Fi enabled video monitoring that was streaming to the mother’s cell phone, as well as a baby monitor that could transmit messages from the mother to her son. There are residents that live near the home that claim the area has a high volume of drug use, however authorities have not answered this speculation with any information regarding whether or not the mother was using illegal drugs. It has also not been divulged whether or not the 36 year old has a history of mental illness, or whether or not the boy had special needs that the mother was unable to cope with, however a mental illness would help make this story of intentional child abuse easier to swallow than a mother who intentionally neglected her child to near starvation. More information on the case is forthcoming.

Child Abandonment for Leaving Children Home Alone

Deciding what age is appropriate for children to be left home alone or with an older sibling is difficult for parents to determine, especially when it could be seen as neglect or child abandonment.

Legal age for being home alone

Photo by: Nagesh Jayaraman

Photo by: Nagesh Jayaraman

While Utah doesn’t have a specific age in which children are old enough to be left home alone, it is recommended by the National SAFEKIDS campaign that parents not leave anyone under the age of 12 home alone, and even then only if they are mature. When leaving children home alone, it is important that the children have key essentials first, such as:

• Mature older sibling or babysitter
• Food
• Shelter
• Clothing
• Emergency contact numbers
• Safe, childproofed home
• Rules for staying safe

Leaving children without the things they need to be safe and healthy is looked at as being negligent, and can lead to neglect or child abandonment charges. Unfortunately for one Utah family, the responsible parent failed to provide for the needs of her children prior to her departure and is now facing prison time.

Utah mom leaves children at motel

Photo by: Oakridge Camp and Retreat Center

Photo by: Oakridge Camp and Retreat Center

A southern Utah mom was arrested last week for charges related to child abandonment after she left her three children alone at the motel where the family was living. The oldest child, a 14 year old, is assumed to have been in charge during her absence. During the time that the mother was away, the two younger children, without proper winter attire, left their older sibling at the motel room late at night to go obtain food. Police officers spotted the improperly dressed, hungry children and followed them back to the motel. There the children disclosed that they had no food and didn’t know where their mom was. Officers later located and confronted the mom about her whereabouts, learning she had been out of state and appeared to be under the influence of drugs. Although a 14 year old should have been old enough to watch their two younger siblings for a short period of time, the mom is facing prison for charges related to child abandonment because she left the children without the clothing and nutrition provisions they needed and no way to contact her or another adult.

Child Abuse

Photo by: Ken Mayer

Photo by: Ken Mayer

The phrase “child abandonment” is often used during parental custody battles, when one parent attempts to prove that the other has no interest in the child(ren). Utah law however, also uses this term to define parents who leave their children in poor circumstances. According to Utah code 76-5-109, child abandonment is when “a parent or legal guardian of a child [human being who is under 18 years of age]:
• Intentionally ceases to maintain physical custody of the child;
• Intentionally fails to make reasonable arrangements for the safety, care, and physical custody of the child; and
• Intentionally fails to provide the child with food, shelter, or clothing […]”

Child abandonment is considered child abuse and is punished as such. Utah Code 76-5-109 also states: “A person who commits child abandonment, or encourages or causes another to commit child abandonment, or an enterprise that encourages, commands, or causes another to commit child abandonment, is:
(a) […] guilty of a felony of the third degree; or
(b) guilty of a felony of the second degree, if, as a result of the child abandonment:
(i) the child suffers a serious physical injury; or
(ii) the person or enterprise receives, directly or indirectly, any benefit.”

Any parents who are facing child abandonment charges after leaving their children home unattended are encouraged to seek counsel from a reputable criminal defense attorney.