Wednesday, January 17, 2001

Trial to begin in death of 8-year-old girl




By Steve Kemme
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HAMILTON — A Hamilton man will go on trial today for involuntary manslaughter in the death of 8-year-old Ashley Smith. Authorities say she died from injuries suffered when she was shaken as an infant.

        John C. Cooper, who was the boyfriend of Ashley's biological mother, was convicted of endangering a child for the shaking incident and served one year in prison.

        Prosecutors filed the involuntary manslaughter charge against Mr. Cooper after Ashley died on Oct. 31, 1999. If convicted, he faces up to 10 years in prison.

        Because of the shaking, which occurred when Ashley was 3 weeks old, she suffered severe physical and mental disabilities. She couldn't talk or sit up.

        Elbert and Kathy Smith of Milford Township adopted Ashley when she was 2.

        Mrs. Smith said she is eager for the trial to start.

        “I hope we get some kind of justice out of it,” she said. “Each time we go to court and get told it's being postponed, it's like Ashley's dying all over again.”

        The Smiths, who operate a heating and air-conditioning business, buried Ashley in a clearing beyond a hay field on their 73-acre farm in northern Butler County.

        After learning that the Smiths could not afford to buy a tombstone, the owner of a monument company donated a tombstone last year for Ashley's grave.

        The tombstone includes an illustration of a candle with a sleeping angel at its base and bears the inscription, “Our Little Angel.”

        The Smiths, who have three adult children, adopted two other severely handicapped children besides Ashley.

        Mrs. Smith has become an advocate for children and has spoken to school and civic groups about shaken baby syndrome and other forms of child abuse.

        She said she frequently visits Ashley's grave.

        “I pray there and sometimes I even talk to her,” Mrs. Smith said. “I let her know Mommy is trying to do something for her and for other children who were abused.”

       



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