~ PVN staff report
LURAY, Sept. 22 — On Friday, a local jury found an Elkton man charged with the abuse and murder of a 10-month-old child guilty after a nine-day trial in Page County Circuit Court.
The jury recommended that Ian Alexander Zimmerman, 24, receive a sentence of 35 years — 25 years for the homicide charge, and 10 years for child abuse. Judge Clark Ritchie will consider the jury’s recommendation and render an official sentence during proceedings scheduled for 2 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 15.
Both the murder charge (listed as a Class 3 felony in online court records) and the child abuse charge (a Class 4 felony) stemmed from an incident on the morning of Nov. 20, 2019, while the child’s mother was away on a job interview in Harrisonburg.
Zimmerman was caring for the child in the North Hawksbill Street residence they shared in Luray, when he stepped away from changing the child’s diaper for 15 to 20 seconds, according to his testimony. When he returned, he reported finding the child on the floor, and then shook the 10 month old “three or four times” to revive it, he told police. When the child remained unresponsive and “became limp”, he called the child’s mother, but never dialed 911 — even though the mother asked him to do so several times, according to testimony.
After the mother arrived back in Luray, the child was taken to Page Memorial Hospital and then airlifted to the University of Virginia Medical Center in Charlottesville. The 10 month old died two days later on Nov. 22, 2019.
An autopsy conducted three days later concluded that the child’s death was the result of brain and spinal cord injury “consistent with Shaken Impact Syndrome.” The prosecution put more than a dozen medical professionals on the stand, some testifying that the more than two dozen injuries were “not accidental”, 90 percent of the child’s brain was damaged, and one stating the retinal hemorhaging was the worst they’d ever seen.
The defense called two medical experts as witnesses who testified that the death could have been from natural causes, such as a stroke, pneumonia or the fall that Zimmerman reported.
Zimmerman was arrested and charged on March 25, 2020, and then indicted on both charges by a Page County grand jury on Aug. 5, 2020. He entered a plea of not guilty in a jury trial that was initially scheduled to begin in February, but was delayed multiple times due to issues from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The nine days of proceedings from Sept. 8-17 marked the longest jury trial in more than a decade in Page County.