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YOUNGSTOWN Man freed of charges of violence



Published: Thu, May 30, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



YOUNGSTOWN -- A domestic violence charge has been dismissed against a man who was set on fire by his former girlfriend after he'd beaten her.

Kenneth Harris, 44, of West Indianola Avenue, has completed a court-ordered treatment program, so he is no longer subject to the charge, says a ruling handed down by Judge Robert Lisotto of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court.

Harris was at the center of a controversial case involving Rita Ashford, with whom he lived in February 2000.

Authorities said Ashford poured rubbing alcohol on Harris and set him on fire to retaliate because he had severely beaten her. The fire spread throughout the house, killing Ashford's 7-year-old daughter, Jamie, who was trapped in an upstairs bedroom.

Treatment program

Harris pleaded guilty to domestic violence in September 2000 and was placed into a treatment program for drug and alcohol addiction instead of having a conviction placed on his record.

Judge Lisotto ruled recently that Harris has successfully completed counseling, has been drug- and alcohol-free for at least one year, and has complied with all other terms of probation. As part of the plea agreement, the charge against him was dismissed.

Ashford was not charged in the assault on Harris, but pleaded guilty in April 2000 to involuntary manslaughter in the death of her daughter. She was placed on probation after serving about five months in the county jail.

She was sent to prison for four years in February after violating her probation by testing positive for cocaine use.




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