Girl incarcerated in overdose death of friend
WCLO's Stan Stricker reports on disposition of 14-year-old girl's case
JANESVILLE Will it happen again? Will a Rock County teen looking to get high lose his life to a pocket full of painkillers?
That’s a question Rock County District Attorney David O’Leary takes seriously.
O’Leary paused to address the question with news reporters Thursday. He was in the midst of prosecuting the Edgerton girl who supplied a fatal dose of oxycodone to her boyfriend last month.
O’Leary said he is prepared to do whatever it takes to make sure the message gets through.
O’Leary specifically said the message needs to get through to the Edgerton Middle School students who, according to reports he has seen, are taking drugs from medicine cabinets and passing them out to friends.
Such was the case when Ashlee R. Brown brought a bag of pills to the home of her friend Alex Aiken, 13, of Milton Township, on Feb. 8.
Brown, 14, admitted the deed in court Thursday. She will spend five years in the custody of the state, up to three of those years incarcerated.
That’s the maximum sentence allowed in Wisconsin’s juvenile justice system.
State law required Brown be charged as an adult.
In court Thursday, both of Brown’s attorneys and prosecutors recommended the case be moved to juvenile court. Judge Michael Fitzpatrick agreed Thursday morning.
Brown, with a long history of juvenile offenses and drug and alcohol abuse, needs treatment that is not available in the adult system, the attorneys and judge agreed.
Thursday afternoon, Brown waived her right to a trial in juvenile court on the charge of first-degree reckless homicide. Judge Alan Bates ruled Brown should get the maximum penalty.
Aiken’s mother, Jennifer Bethel, spoke before Bates imposed the sentence. She listed the simple pleasures of being Alex’s mom—comforting him, watching him on a dirt bike he got for his birthday, grilling a steak for him on a warm spring day. All things Brown took away from her, she noted.
Bethel cried throughout her statement, stopping to compose herself several times.
“I can’t eat or sleep or go downstairs in my own house, because that is where Alex’s room was,” Bethel said.
“There is no sentence that you could give Ashlee that would take her life away the way Alex was taken away from me,” Bethel said.
Bethel also said Brown should be made to speak regularly to young people to warn them not to do what she did.
“This has to stop. An example has to be set so no more children will die,” Bethel said.
Bethel brought a photo of Alex, “so you can see how pretty his eyes were.”
Assistant district attorney Dan Niedfeldt said he was satisfied the sentence holds Brown accountable while allowing her treatment for serious personal issues.
One of those issues is the fact that Ashlee saw her younger brother killed by a car as he rode his Big Wheel six years ago, said defense attorney Barbara Gerber.
Because of that, Brown’s family can relate to the pain felt by Alex Aiken’s family, Gerber said.
Brown understands what she did and knows she must pay the consequences, Gerber said.
Brown sat quietly for most of both hearings, wearing prison garb and ankle chains. Her only sounds were timid-sounding one-word responses to the judges’ questions.
“She wants to change her life,” Gerber said. “She wants to better herself, get treatment for drugs and alcohol and counseling for issues around the death of her brother.”
Bates said the sentence does what the Legislature has commanded the juvenile courts to do: protect the community, make violators accountable and help the violators get treatment to better their lives.
“Ashlee, I wish you had had less turmoil in your life,” Bates said. “But we all have turmoil in our lives, and we have to deal with it, and you’ve dealt with it very badly.”
Bates said Brown, a regular drug abuser, had been referred to juvenile authorities nine times and was declared a juvenile delinquent three times.
She had been sentenced Feb. 4 and was supposed to be on home detention the night Aiken died, Bates noted, adding that was just one in a long line of decisions by a girl who ignored the rules.
Brown is headed to the Southern Oaks Girls School in Union Grove to serve her sentence. Bates granted her family permission to meet with her in the courthouse before she was taken away.
Aiken’s family is asking for about $10,000 restitution for funeral expenses, O’Leary said. A restitution hearing will be scheduled.