Sikeston woman sentenced for murder of 13-month-old

Thursday, January 28, 2010

NEW MADRID, Mo. - A Sikeston woman was sentenced to 20 years in prison for the death of a 13-month-old child, the Sikeston Standard Democrat reported Wednesday.

Ashley N. Clark was sentenced Tuesday to 20 years in prison on a charge of second-degree murder and 20 years on a charge of abuse of a child resulting in death. Circuit Judge Fred W. Copeland, who heard the case on a change of venue from Scott County, ordered the sentences to run concurrently.

Clark was charged in the child's death on July 24, 2006.

According to the probable cause statement, a Sikeston Department of Public Safety responded to Clark's residence on Clayton Street following a report of a child not breathing. The officer began CPR at the house until ambulance personnel arrived and transported the child to the emergency room at Missouri Delta Medical Center.

In the probable cause statement DPS Detective J. Broom noted a doctor stated the child had bruises and injuries which "were consistent with 'non-accidental trauma'."

Clark later confessed to the officer that she was watching the child along with four children of her own when she began "swinging D.C. up in the air by her arms. She said she did this three times and on the third time she did a complete flip and dropped to the floor from over four feet," according to the probable cause statement. Clark told the officer the child's head hit the floor and she threw the child several feet into a chair over 10 times over the next two days.

Clark had initially entered guilty pleas to the charges on May 12, 2009. However, according to Scott County Prosecuting Attorney Paul Boyd, Clark later sought to withdraw her plea citing her inability to understand the "wrongfulness" of her criminal acts.

A second mental evaluation found "that Mrs. Clark suffered from mild mental retardation but not to such a level that she could not appreciate the wrongfulness of her acts or understand the guilty plea to the criminal acts committed by her," Boyd said in a written release about the case.

"This case is a tragic event for the mother, Whitley Bratcher, who lost her daughter," Boyd said. "Mrs. Clark's mild retardation does not excuse her of the criminal acts she committed but it is a mitigating fact at sentencing for the court."

According to Boyd, Clark must serve 17 years before becoming eligible for parole.

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