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Scott County mother must serve 9 years in prison after beating her 1-year-old child blind

Ashley Cowan (Photo credit: Southwest Virginia Regional Jail)

In a situation described as tragic after a 1-year-old child was beat blind by his mother, a judge ordered a Gate City woman must serve nine years in prison.

Ashley Marie Cowan was sentenced to 15 years in prison with six suspended for felony child abuse causing serious injury and felony child neglect.

Agencies responded to Niswonger Children's Hospital on April 5, 2018 where a 1-year-old boy was suffering from bilaterial retinal hemorrhages. Later medical exams revealed numerous non-accidental subdural bilateral hematomas, or brain bleeds, resulting in blindness.

Cowan initially told authorities she saw her son fall, causing the injuries but later told them that she did not see her son fall. Later, she admitted to making the whole story up.

The child was flown by helicopter to Carillion Medical Center, in Roanoke, which specializes in pediatric neurology. He was diagnosed and treated for over 100 non-accidental subdural and retinal hemorrhages. The trauma left the child permanently blind.

Cowan also assaulted Scott County and Tennessee Child Protective Service workers who responded to Niswonger Children's Hospital that night. She was also convicted for those assaults as well as escaping the Washington County Detention Center.

“The court heard over 8 hours of emotional testimony from witnesses, including treatment providers, social workers, and law enforcement," Scott County Commonwealth’s Attorney Andrew Johnson said. "These witnesses detailed the trauma this child experienced in the days and months following his arrival to Niswonger and the profound impact it had on their personal and professional lives.”

“The sentencing guidelines recommendation for Cowan’s charges called for a jail or prison sentence between 1 and 2 years," Johnson added. "However, the court did not believe those guidelines accurately reflected the severity of the injuries to the victim or the life-long hardship he will endure. Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Tim Boyer did a remarkable job presenting this case. He gave this child a voice before the court and it was compelling.”

Officials said that Cowan showed no remorse or regret for her actions.

Cowan also must serve four years of probation after her release from prison. During her probation, she is not allowed to have any unsupervised contact with minor children.

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