Montana Woman Gets 15 Years for Son’s Death in Hot Car

Ashley Maria Howard, who was 19 at the time, left the boy in her car in Glendive on June 25, 2018

By Tristan Scott

BILLINGS — An eastern Montana woman has been sentenced to 15 years in prison for the death of her 2-year-old son, who she left in her car after a night of drinking.

Prosecutors say Ashley Maria Howard, who was 19 at the time, left the boy in her car in Glendive on June 25, 2018 and into the following afternoon while she slept after getting drunk at a party. She was convicted of negligent homicide in August. Her trial was moved to Great Falls following significant public outcry in Dawson County.

District Judge Elizabeth Best sentenced Howard on Monday to 20 years in the Montana Women’s Prison with five years suspended, The Billings Gazette reported. Howard must serve 10 years before being eligible for parole, but was given credit for the two years she has already served.

The boy’s temperature was 107 degrees when Howard took him to the hospital, 14 hours after she left him in the car, court records said. He died two days later of heatstroke.

Defense attorney Victor Bunitsky argued for a 15-year suspended sentence, saying Howard’s brain hadn’t fully developed, she had an alcohol dependency problem and “she made a stupid decision.”

Best said that while Howard’s young age played a role in the boy’s death, she still showed signs of irresponsibility and narcissism and needed “serious and sustained treatment.”

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