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YOUNGSTOWN Probation violation lands woman in jail



Published: Fri, February 1, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



Cocaine was found in the woman's system after a random drug test ordered by the court.

By BOB JACKSON

VINDICATOR COURTHOUSE REPORTER

YOUNGSTOWN -- A Sherwood Avenue woman is in Mahoning County Jail awaiting a hearing to decide whether she goes to prison for violating terms of her probation.

Assistant Prosecutor Timothy Franken said a random drug test showed traces of cocaine in Rita Ashford's urine. Judge Maureen A. Cronin of common pleas court sent her to jail pending the Feb. 14 hearing.

Ashford, 39, pleaded guilty in April 2000 to involuntary manslaughter in the death of her 7-year-old daughter, Jamie. The charge was reduced from murder as part of a plea agreement with the prosecutor's office.

Original sentence: Judge Cronin sentenced Ashford to five years in prison, then suspended all but six months of the sentence and ordered the time spent in the county jail so Ashford could receive medication and therapy to recover from domestic violence.

Ashford was released from jail in February 2001 and placed on probation for three years. Among the terms of her probation was that she refrain from using drugs.

Defense lawyer Thomas Zena said under Ohio law, Judge Cronin could send Ashford to prison for up to 2 1/2 years, which is half her original sentence. The law requires that any prison sentence for probation violation be imposed in nine-month increments.

Judge Cronin also could extend the probation or modify its terms.

Ashford has complied with all other terms of her probation, Zena said.

About the case: Authorities said Ashford poured rubbing alcohol on her then-boyfriend, Kenneth Harris, and set him on fire in February 2000 because he had severely beaten her.

The fire spread throughout the house and killed Jamie, who was trapped in an upstairs bedroom.

Harris, who spent several days in the hospital because of his injuries, was later charged with a felony count of domestic violence. He pleaded guilty and was placed into a treatment program for drug and alcohol addiction instead of having a conviction placed on his record.

Harris' attorney said in court documents that Harris was under the influence of alcohol and drugs when he attacked Ashford.

bjackson@vindy.com




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