"I struggle with saying that I killed my son because nobody wants to be the reason their son is no longer here. I miss him every day."
Parents have the responsibility to take care of their children. However, many fail to realize that not all parents are protective and aware of their responsibilities. One mother from Montana left her toddler in a hot car for 14 hours. Her reckless action resulted in the death of the child.
According to People, Ashley Howard, a 21-year-old was convicted of negligent homicide of her 2-year-old son Caleb Hopkins. The careless mother was sentenced to 20 years in Montana State Women's Prison in Billings on 19 October 2020. Initially, Ashley pleaded not guilty but the evidence proved that the death was purely caused due to her blatant negligence.
Ashley went out partying on 25 June 2018, leaving her toddler in the car. At the end of the night, her boyfriend at the time offered her and her son a ride home; however, the mother declined the offer. Instead, she went to a friend's house to sober up while her son was still in the car. But the woman did not wake up until the next afternoon at about 1 p.m, according to Billings Gazette.
Finding the boy in the car, the mother drove him to the Glendive Medical Center. The toddler was admitted with a temperature of 107 degrees. She even told the medical staff that the boy was found “wrapped in a blanket.” Later, the boy who was in critical condition was airlifted to a hospital in Billings. Despite the efforts of the medical experts, he died two days later. The cause of his death was hyperthermia, which is caused due to overheating.
Little Caleb's death instigated his father, John Howard, to inform the police about Ashley's careless parenting. He alerted Dawson County Sheriff and said he was aware of at least three instances where she left Caleb alone in the car. However, John's arguments were denied by the mother.
She refrained from taking any responsibility for her son's death and blamed her family for the lack of support. Her claims did not sit well with Caleb's paternal grandmother, Marsha Hopkins. She stated that she and her husband often offered to look after Caleb.
Howard’s defense attorney, Victor Bunitsky, asked the court to consider her age and reminded the court she was only 19 when the horrific incident took place. "Her brain hadn’t fully developed and she made a stupid decision,” said the attorney. He added, "Give her the chance to get on with her life and demonstrate that she has learned from it and she can deal with her addiction problem and deal with the issues of the death of her child," according to Billings Gazette.
However, prosecutors stated it was "insulting" to excuse her for the death of her child just because of her age. Prior to the sentence, the mother stated that she suffered from anxiety, depression, and self-esteem issues. She further stated, "Yes, I agree, my decisions were selfish. I struggle with saying that I killed my son because nobody wants to be the reason their son is no longer here. I miss him every day. I know that I will always love my son and I will always miss him," according to People.
After handing down the sentence, the judge said, "All of these effects that you describe on yourself and your family are nothing compared to what happened to this boy."
Ashley will get credit for the two years she already spent in prison. During the court hearing, the family members remembered the young soul and expressed their grief of losing him. “I don’t think we will ever have closure,” said the child's grandmother, according to Billings Gazette.