A Westminster woman charged with child abuse related to the death of her infant daughter took an Alford plea Thursday morning July 12.
Ashley Love Davis, 24, of Westminster, was indicted by a Carroll County grand jury on Aug. 31, 2017. She took an Alford plea to first-degree child abuse resulting in the death of Sophia Davis during a hearing Thursday in Carroll County Circuit Court.
She continues to be held without bail until sentencing, scheduled for Oct. 4.
In taking an Alford plea, Davis did not admit guilt, but agreed that a guilty finding would likely be reached through a trial. An Alford plea counts as a guilty plea in the eyes of the court, Judge Barry Hughes said.
As part of the plea hearing, Senior Assistant State’s Attorney Ashley Pamer read a statement of facts determined by the investigation.
Sophia Love Davis was born prematurely and, as a result, a nurse was assigned to check on her and Davis regularly after the two were discharged from the hospital on Dec. 5, 2015. According to the statement, during the nurse’s last visit before the infant’s death on Dec. 31, 2015, the nurse reported the infant to be in good health.
Between Jan. 1-4, 2016, others who interacted with the infant reported that the baby was displaying unusual symptoms including eyes rolling back in her head, vomiting, which was attributed to a change in formula, and lying limply, not responding to touch.
The parties testified to urging Davis to seek medical attention for the infant, but there is no record of her doing so until Jan. 4, 2016, when she called 911 and reported that the infant was vomiting, tensing up, and appeared cross-eyed.
Earlier in the day, the assigned nurse made contact with Davis to remind her of an appointment scheduled for the next day. The nurse testified that Davis did not mention any irregularity with the child besides a strong smell to her urine. She said the baby’s eating seemed to be improving.
The infant was taken to Carroll Hospital and later transferred to Johns Hopkins. An MRI found that head trauma had resulted in bleeding in the brain.
Sophia Davis was taken off life support on Jan. 7, 2016.
Authorities from the Child Protection Team of the Johns Hopkins Pediatric Emergency Department told investigators that the child’s condition was suggestive of abuse. The extent of the injury to the brain was equal to if the baby had been in a car accident, Director Mitchell Goldstein told investigators.
Prosecutors presented the theory that Davis had shaken the child out of frustration following an argument with boyfriend Tyler Tennant, and not with the intent to kill her. They argued that the sum of all actions and inactions was sufficient to meet the requirements for the first-degree child abuse charge.
Davis’ attorney, William Welsch, responded that the defense assumed that Davis did not cause the injury to the child. The state’s basis for the charge would need to be built on Davis not fulfilling her duty to seek care for the child.
Pamer replied that the neglect of duty was still sufficient for the charge.