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Child neglect cases move forward
wiegel hopper neglect
Jamie Lee Weigel and Dalton Allen Hopper

DARLINGTON — The Belmont couple accused of severely neglecting their two infant daughters made separate appearances in Lafayette County Circuit Court Thursday, May 16.

Jamie Lee Weigel, 26, and Dalton Allen Hopper, 25, are out on $6,000 signature bonds. Their two children, ages 5 months and 15 months, have been removed from their care and are reportedly recovering and thriving.

Weigel waived her right to a preliminary hearing and stood mute on all charges. She faces a Class C felony charge of child abuse intentionally causing great bodily harm, a Class D felony charge of chronic neglect of a child with a consequence of great bodily harm, a Class F felony charge of chronic neglect of a child with a consequence of bodily harm and a Class H felony charge of child abuse intentionally causing harm. 

The charges together carry a maximum imprisonment of over 80 years. A scheduling conference in her case is scheduled for June 24. 

Hopper’s attorney Timothy Angel filed a motion to dismiss two of the four similar charges against his client, a Class C felony charge of child abuse intentionally causing great bodily harm and a Class F felony charge of a neglecting a child with a consequence of great bodily harm.

Angel argued the criminal complaint did not provide sufficient evidence for the “great bodily harm” aspect of the charges, which are associated with the younger child. He read the definition for great bodily harm as an “injury which creates substantial risk of death or which causes serious permanent disfigurement or which causes a permanent or protracted loss of impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ or other serious bodily injury.”

He said the proper charge should be a Class H felony count of child neglect, without the “great bodily harm” modifier.

“I don’t see any kind of injury that shows there was an intentional act by the parents,” Angel said. “This is an extreme neglect case. In the absence of some detail, some act of rage or aggression, I don’t think part of the complaint shows injury here.”

District Attorney Jenna Gill argued that several pieces of evidence throughout the 37-page criminal complaint justified the charges.

Gill quoted a doctor at the University of Wisconsin Children’s Hospital in Madison who told investigators the younger child could have died within a week had she not been brought to the hospital. The child’s body had “used up the majority of fatty and muscle tissues and was going to start feeding on its own organs,” according to the doctor.

Gill read descriptions from the criminal complaint that the baby had a rash from long exposure to urine and feces and pressure ulcers on her back. Due to her lack of tissue, the ulcers had to be covered with bandages to keep her bones from breaking through the skin. The child also had impaired kidney function and liver damage.

Gill also quoted police interviews with Hopper in which he said he was not taking care of the children like he should have, was choosing his relationship with Weigel over the children and he didn’t know how long the children were going to live.

“If starving your child to the point where that happens doesn’t create a substantial risk of death, I’m not sure what does,” Gill said.

Judge Duane Jorgenson noted the criminal complaint provides no other medical explanation for the children’s issues beyond neglect. He said Angel’s theory rested not on whether the circumstance created a substantial risk of death but whether there is an alleged injury.

“Ultimately when you take the entire criminal complaint, there are certainly sufficient allegations of injury,” Jorgenson said.

At the same hearing, Gill asked that Hopper’s conditions of bond be modified to not allow contact with the children. The same motion was granted in Weigel’s case on May 6.

Attorney Angel countered that Hopper already had two supervised visits and they had gone well. He disputed Gill’s assertion that Hopper has no emotional connection to the children.

Gill again argued that Hopper and Weigel “are not remotely capable to take care of the children.”

Jorgenson granted Gill’s motion to modify bond due to the children’s ages and their inability to speak for themselves.

Hopper is next in court for his arraignment on June 18.