Roanoke man charged with killing 4-year-old girl turns down plea deal

The Roanoke man who was charged last year with beating a 4-year-old girl to death turned down a plea agreement Thursday and asked for a trial.

Jonathan Shaquille Anderson, 32, faces three felony charges — first-degree murder, child abuse and neglect and cruelty or injuries to a child — related to the January 2023 death of the girl, identified in court documents as “A.A.” If convicted, Anderson could be sentenced to life in prison plus 15 years.

Jonathan Shaquille Anderson


Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney David Billingsley told The Roanoke Times that Anderson’s plea hearing in Roanoke Circuit Court was set on Wednesday for Thursday. But the prosecutor said after Thursday’s proceedings that he learned that morning that Anderson had changed his mind.

Anderson’s attorney, Chris Kowalczuk, said he and his client had thoroughly discussed his constitutional right to plead not guilty and the potential consequences of doing so. After hours of discussion with Anderson and Anderson’s family, Kowalczuk said, the decision was made to ask for a trial.

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Billingsley told Judge David Carson that if Anderson chose to enter a not guilty plea, his plea offer would be taken off the table and additional plea negotiations would not occur.

Carson requested a brief, 10-minute recess in the middle of Thursday’s hearing and suggested Anderson speak with Kowalczuk one more time before making his final decision.

“I don’t care what you do, I just want your decision to be made knowingly and intelligently,” Carson said.

Kowalczuk said when court resumed that it is always good to revisit potentially life-changing decisions. But his client maintained his request for a trial.

Carson said that because the case involves the death of a child, he doesn’t feel he could fairly adjudicate Anderson’s bench trial if asked to do so. Carson said that if he remains the judge on the case, he would request Anderson’s case go before a jury.

Anderson has been out jail on bond since Feb. 23. He was permitted to leave the courtroom Thursday on the same bond conditions, which include compliance with pretrial services, a curfew and no unsupervised contact with children under the age of 13.

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During Anderson’s bond hearing in February, Billingsley said first responders were dispatched on Jan. 21, 2023, to the 2100 block of Russell Avenue Southwest in the city’s Norwich neighborhood for reports of an injured child.

At a residence, Anderson was found home alone with four children. He told authorities that A.A., who Billingsley said had previously been diagnosed with autism, had run into a door frame and passed out. She was transported to Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital for treatment, but she died three days later.

Billingsley said in February that two of the older children on the scene later told a forensic interviewer that Anderson had thrown A.A. against a wall, a bed and the floor after she had spilled some seeds in a room.

Kowalczuk said Anderson made two statements to police, one before and one after his arrest on Feb. 6, according to Virginia’s online court case information system. The lawyer said he and Anderson had reviewed that evidence, as well as medical evidence and statements made by eyewitnesses to police at the Russell Avenue scene.

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Kowalczuk said he intends to “vigorously defend” Anderson and his decision to plead not guilty. The case is scheduled for a two-day trial beginning Jan. 29.

Billingsley said the plea agreement that had been offered by the commonwealth will remain confidential. The details of the agreement were not disclosed by Carson or the attorneys during Thursday’s hearing.

Emma Coleman (540) 981-3198