Tragic death of JJ Hammond: Mom Jennifer Keim gets 4-year probation after disabled son, 15, dies
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MOLINE, ILLINOIS: After entering a guilty plea in connection with the 'death' of her disabled 15-year-old son, an Illinois woman has received a probationary sentence. Jennifer Keim, 36, was given four years of probation by a judge in Rock Island County on Friday, reports said.
When Joseph "J.J." Hammond died in November 2020, the Moline woman was initially charged with murder in March 2021 during her arrest along with the husband, the child's stepdad. According to the prosecution, Keim did not give her son "appropriate hydration, nutrition, and medical care."
However, in September, Keim in response to an amended felony charge of criminal neglect or abuse of a person with a disability agreed to enter a guilty plea. Sean Williams, the Rock Island County Assistant State’s Attorney had sought the maximum sentence of 14 years. He had said that Keim showed "a horrible lack of action" and noted that her son weighed just 38 pounds when he died.
Keim told the court that by November 2020 the spread of COVID-19 had filled her with "overwhelming fear and panic" Her attorney, Jon Ruud, told the court those fears about the pandemic had an impact on Keim’s decision-making, a Fox News report said.
"We might not remember it well today, but in the fall of 2020 the world was on fire," Ruud said. "We were told to not go to emergency rooms." Keim’s husband, Justin Keim, 34, is charged with neglect/abuse of a disabled person in the teen's death.
What happened in 2020?
In a press release, police recalled that on November 3, 2020, officers responded to an area hospital where the boy had been transported to be treated for numerous ailments. Hospital staff found the child to be "extremely dehydrated, emaciated, and [with] severe open wounds that had not been properly treated."
Despite the best efforts of medical staff, the child went into cardiopulmonary arrest and was later pronounced dead at the hospital. The 15-year-old boy has been reportedly identified as Joseph "JJ" Hammond, who was born with severe cerebral palsy and required extraordinary care.
Keim and her husband were held on a $2 million bond and a $500,000 bond respectively. A friend of Jennifer's had defended her as a mother and caretaker as per a previous MEAWW report saying, "I know this family intimately," Christa Axnix, Jennifer's friend since the second grade, reportedly told a local publication. "Everyone who knows Jennifer knows the hard work and dedication she put into keeping J.J. alive."
"She spent holidays alone with him in the hospital in Peoria more than one Christmas when he had pneumonia," she said. The friend also added that six years ago, she was struck with a neurological disorder that paralyzed her lower body, Jennifer was the first to visit her at the hospital. She had brought her son along that day, Axnix recalled at the time.