A man charged with felony murder in connection with the death of his 4-month-old daughter last year in Spotsylvania County was given a bond Tuesday over the strenuous objections of a prosecutor.

James Edward Cressel, 33, of Spotsylvania has been in the Rappahannock Regional Jail since the Aug. 23, 2018, death of his infant daughter, Leighton Cressel.

The baby was found dead in a Spotsylvania motel room. A medical examiner was unable to determine her cause or manner of death, which remains classified as undetermined.

Cressel and the child’s mother, 32-year-old Cherie Danielle Sullivan, are both charged with felony murder and three counts of child neglect. A joint trial is now scheduled for Feb. 3–4 in Spotsylvania Circuit Court.

Judge William Glover Tuesday granted a $10,000 bond for Cressel after hearing arguments from prosecutor Crystal Montague–Holland and defense attorney Mark Murphy. The bond contains several conditions, including the completion of a substance abuse treatment program.

Murphy pointed out that Cressel has already served more than a year in jail even though authorities were unable to determine why the baby died. Murphy claimed that a Department of Social Services investigation done after the death found that allegations of abuse against his client were unfounded.

Montague–Holland cited Cressel’s long criminal history and said he is a danger to the community. She argued that he hadn’t checked on the baby for an extended period of time and was clearly under the influence of narcotics when deputies and rescue workers responded to a 911 call about the baby.

The death took place in the 5300 block of Jefferson Davis Highway in Spotslvania. According to court records, the child was already dead when rescue workers responded to a 911 call from the parents.

Detective Ed Perkins Jr. wrote in an affidavit that the parents gave “vague, differing stories and confusing timelines” about the circumstances of how the baby came to be discovered dead in a portable playpen in the motel room. Two other small children, ages 3 and 15 months at the time, were also in the room, but were not harmed.

Sullivan, who is also free on bond, had apparently left the room for a while, leaving Cressel with the children.

Court records state that the baby was born positive for opiates and that both parents at the time had severe opiate addictions.

The joint trial has been continued at least twice, most recently in September when the Public Defender’s Office withdrew as Cressel’s representative because of a conflict of interests a week before the trial was to start.

Keith Epps: 540/374-5404


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