Fraraccio’s guilty plea to felony murder and child abuse in a Prince William County courtroom Monday was a shocking admission that she had done the unthinkable. She admitted to smothering and killing 23-month-old Elijah Nealey in the summer of 2012.
She couldn’t get the toddler to stop crying, Fraraccio told police, so she picked him up and covered his nose and mouth with her hand.
“She was going to give him lunch,” Mike Nealey, a 40-year-old federal IT contractor, said in an interview. “An hour later he was dead.”
On that August day
, the Nealey’s two young daughters, 5 and 7, went to a neighborhood park with their grandmother. It was about noon, and Elijah stayed behind with Fraraccio because he was due for a nap.
An hour or two later, Fraraccio called 911. Elijah was unconscious, and she was performing CPR. By the time paramedics arrived, it was too late. He never woke up.
At first, Fraraccio said the boy had slipped in the tub and hit his head, but months later she told police that wasn’t true, Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Teresa A. Polinske said in court.
In the end, Fraraccio told police that Elijah was upset when the others left for the park and stood by the window and cried, Polinske said.
Fraraccio became frustrated with his crying. When Elijah sat down on a small chair at a play table, Fraraccio pulled the chair out from under him, Polinske said. The boy hit his head on the table and floor.
“He was screaming and crying,” Fraraccio told police, according to the prosecutor.
Fraraccio then picked Elijah up and carried him upside down with her hand over his nose and mouth and walked him around the house, the prosecutor said. At some point, he bit her finger. “His last defense,” Fraraccio would say later.
The babysitter told police that she put Elijah in the bathtub and began to run water, in hopes he would be okay. The boy vomited and his eyes rolled back. Eventually, she carried him to a bedroom and called for help.
Sandra Drewniak, Fraraccio’s attorney, said in court that her client never intended to kill Elijah and has shown “extreme remorse.”
As part of a plea deal, prosecutors dropped a child abuse charge from a separate incident. She will serve a minimum of seven years in prison and could receive up to 50 years. Her sentencing is set for January.
For months after Elijah’s death, the Nealeys believed Fraraccio’s original story that their son had fallen in the tub. Mike Nealey said he wondered what would have happened if he had put in a rubber mat on the tub floor. He also blamed his son — why wasn’t he more careful?
The Nealeys’ relationship with Fraraccio began when Jenn Nealey was laid up after surgery in January 2012. She needed help with the children as she recovered. Jessica fit the bill, especially because the Nealeys knew her parents.