Glendive mom charged in toddler son’s death

Thursday, August 16, 2018
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Ashley Maria Howard was charged with negligent homicide on Aug. 13

Negligent Homicide

Following an investigation into the death of a two-year-old Glendive child, the Dawson County Sheriff’s Department arrested and charged the child’s mother, 19-year-old Ashley Maria Howard, also of Glendive, with negligent homicide on Aug. 13.

According to the charging document, the child, Caleb Hopkins, was brought to Glendive Medical Center on June 26 with a body temperature of 107 degrees. Hopkins was subsequently life flighted to St. Vincent’s Hospital in Billings where he stayed until he was pronounced dead on June 28. According to pathologist Dr. Robert Kurtzman in Billings, the cause of death was listed as hyperthermia, which was induced by overheating from being left in Howard’s car.

On June 28, Dawson County Sheriff’s Deputy Miles Baisch was approached by John Howard, grandfather of the child and Ashley’s father, who reported concerns over the nature of the child’s death. According to court documents, Howard told Baisch that on at least three previous occasions his daughter had left her child in the car in hot weather, and that it was a matter which he had confronted her about before.

The court document also states that John Howard told Baisch that on June 25 the child’s father had taken the toddler to GMC for a routine checkup and at that time the child was said to be in good health, raising the question as to how the child could have turned ill so quickly.

Baisch contacted Child Protective Services and was advised by Laura Moser with CPS that they had opened an investigation in Billings as well. After speaking with Moser, Baisch received notice from Deputy County Coroner Tyler Silha that the child had died.

During interviews with witnesses, documents state that Baisch spoke with the child’s daycare provider, who said that she had also seen the child on June 25 and that he appeared to be in good health. She also said she encountered Ashley Howard and her son at GMC on June 26, where Howard told her that her son had fallen asleep while wrapped in a blanket in the house with high temperatures.

According to the court document, Howard told investigators in Billings that the child had fallen asleep wrapped in a blanket while in the care of the daycare provider.

On July 12, Baisch interviewed Howard and told her that he needed to hear her side of the story. As the report reads, she told Baisch that on the night of June 25 she had an argument with her boyfriend before dropping him off at his late-shift at work. During subsequent text messages obtained by the Sheriff’s Department, Ashley Howard said that she was going to stay at a friend’s house for the night.

According to court documents, Howard later attended a friend’s party and arrived at around 11 p.m. Witnesses at the party said that they did not see Howard’s child with her .

During the interview, Howard told Baisch that she left the party at around 5:30 a.m. to spend the night at a friend’s house next door. Howard said that at that time she removed the toddler from his child seat to lay him down on the car seat, and went inside with the intention of sleeping an hour before driving home.

However, Howard said that she slept until 1 p.m. on June 26, at which time she woke up to find Hopkins still in the car with sweaty, pale skin, a high temperature and labored breathing. The court document states that Howard attempted to cool him off in a bathtub before leaving and dialing GMC at 1:18 p.m., telling them that she was bringing her child in.

Howard’s initial appearance is scheduled for Aug. 21.

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