By NEIL HARVEY
The bleak circumstances surrounding a Franklin County toddler’s death two years ago were revealed Tuesday afternoon at a plea hearing for the child’s mother.
The case involves 1-year-old Gabriella Elizabeth Moore, who on Sept. 24, 2017, was found unresponsive, lying in the bowl of a bathroom commode at a home on Carolina Road in Rocky Mount, prosecutors said.
Gabriella was discovered by her mother, Tabitha Danielle Amos, who had been at the house visiting friends. Efforts were made to resuscitate the child — first by Amos’ acquaintances, then by emergency medical crews — but they were unable to revive her.
At Tuesday’s hearing, Amos, 30, of Wirtz, pleaded no contest to one count of child cruelty with injury. In Virginia, that is a Class 6 felony and can bring one to five years in prison. Amos also pleaded no contest to two 2018 counts of felony possession of narcotics, both of which can bring up to 10 years.
“The use of drugs certainly played a role in the decision to bring charges,” assistant prosecutor Sandra Workman said Tuesday.
In Workman’s summary of evidence, she said Gabriella had been largely left in the company of two children, ages 3 and 7, while her mother was outside that day. When a friend texted Amos, asking what she was doing, she replied she was “smoking,” Workman said, and phone records showed that during that period, Amos took a call with a friend that lasted 19 minutes.
Later, after Amos found her daughter in the bathroom, Workman said, she phoned that friend back, and he was the person who ultimately placed the 911 call.
Screened at a hospital later that day, Amos tested positive for “a phenomenally high level of methamphetamine,” according to Workman.
Defense attorney Tripp Hunt said during the hearing that he wanted to reserve his comments and arguments on the case until Amos’ sentencing, which is scheduled for September.
Amos was considered a fugitive earlier this year on outstanding warrants for the drug and neglect charges, but was taken into custody in January. Franklin County sheriff’s deputies said at the time that they located her online, arranged a meeting with her through social media and then arrested her.
Amos has been out on bond for the past several months, and Hunt said in court that she has passed all required drug screens since her release.
“She’s actually pregnant and right now she’s doing really well,” he told the judge, who allowed her to remain free until her September hearing.
Henri Gendreau of The Roanoke Times contributed to this report.