Saturday, 11 December 2010

INFANTICIDE: Virginia: Ashkea Johnson

By Brad Zinn/staff • • December 9, 2010
STAUNTON — Jury selection in the murder trial of a Staunton teen accused of killing her baby last year is set to begin this morning in Staunton Circuit Court, and by Friday the 12-person jury is expected to begin deliberating the fate of 18-year-old Ashkea Johnson. Johnson is accused of smothering her infant daughter, 2 1/2-month-old Rosaleeia M. Johnson, the night of Nov. 15, 2009. The baby, found unconscious and not breathing, died four days later at Augusta Health in Fishersville after being taken off life support.
Johnson is charged with first-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder.
She confessed to police that she killed her child, and also admitted attempting to smother the baby a week before she was found unconscious, according to evidence presented at a March preliminary hearing and court transcripts,
Seventeen years old at the time of her baby's death, Johnson is being tried as an adult after the case was transferred from the juvenile court system.
In a rambling statement made to police in December 2009, Johnson initially claimed she found the baby with no pulse and tried to resuscitate her three times. After calling 911, Johnson told a Staunton police investigator that when rescue personnel arrived, "My sister handed it ... her to the fire department."
Questioned further, Johnson admitted she pressed a small, plastic disposable diaper bag over the baby's nose and mouth, transcripts show.
"I wasn't thinking straight," she told the investigator.
Johnson also confessed to trying to kill the baby a week before the Nov. 15 incident, and said she once dropped her child on purpose two weeks after she was born.
Johnson, who gave birth to her first child at the age of 14, told police she was confused and stressed, and tried to have her mother adopt her children to no avail.
Court records show Johnson has been ruled mentally competent to stand trial, but reports also note she suffers from bipolar disorder and started cutting herself in the sixth grade.
Earlier this week, a prosecution motion to prevent the defense from mentioning Johnson's mental state was denied, but Circuit Judge Humes J. Franklin Jr. cautioned both sides about broaching the issue. An earlier motion in August by the defense to have Johnson's confession thrown out was unsuccessful.
Johnson faces the possibility of life in prison if convicted in the killing.

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