A Montana woman received a 20-year prison sentence for negligent homicide in the hot car death of her toddler son.
According to Great Falls Tribune, Ashley Maria Howard, 21, received her sentencing Monday in Cascade County, more than two years after her 2-year-old boy Caleb died of a heat stroke. Authorities say the child was left inside the vehicle on June 25, 2018, as Howard attended a party. She reportedly overslept following her night out and did not retrieve her son until 1 p.m. the next day. Investigators say the toddler spent about 14 hours inside the car, causing his temperature to reach 107 degrees.
Caleb was transferred to Glendive Medical Center and then life-flighted to St. Vincent’s Hospital on June 26; he was taken off life support two days later. According to a pathology report, the child's cause of death was hyperthermia induced by overheating.
Howard pleaded not guilty back in September 2018. Prosecutors argued the mother never took responsibility for the child's death and consistently tried to paint herself as the victim. Her lawyers have requested a deferred sentence and asked the judge to allow Howard to seek treatment for mental and substance abuse issues.
"You’ve heard a lot of testimony about me, and yes I agree that my decisions were selfish," Howard told Cascade County District Judge Elizabeth Best on Monday. "None of this excuses my actions, but I believe it does mitigate them. I want help."
Best recommended treatment for Howard and determined she "has a high risk of reoffending."
Howard will complete her sentencing at Montana Women's Prison. Five years of her 20-year sentence have been suspended. She will not be eligible for parole for 10 years.