Mother Gets Off With No Jail After Shaking Baby Girl to Death

Carisa Ashe, 34, reached a plea agreement with Atlanta prosecutors in February in which she will not serve a single day in jail for shaking her 5-week-old daughter to death in 1998.

The infant, Destiny, had been born premature and had been hospitalized for several weeks. Two days after going home, her mother shook the infant to death. Ashe told police that the baby simply stopped breathing.

Ashe, who has seven other children, had been charged with murder but reached an agreement to plead guilty to voluntary manslaughter which carried a sentence of up to 20 years in jail. Instead, Superior Court Judge Rowland Barnes ordered Ashe to serve five years probation and to have a tubal ligation within 3 months of her sentencing date to ensure she would have no more children.

Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard told Cox News Service that he agreed to the plea deal because Ashe was suffering from postpartum depression when she killed Destiny.


Mother chooses sterilization over murder trial. Beth Warren, Cox News Service, February 10, 2005.

Villanova University Backs Down on Honoring Baby Killer

Villanova University found itself the focus of controversy in February over its plans to honor a professor who killed her 6-month old baby and then committed suicide in jail in August 2003.

Mine Ener had been a professor of history at Villanova and director of the school’s Center for Arab American Studies. In 2003 she gave birth to a baby girl who suffered from Down’s syndrome. According to police, Ener suffered from postpartum depression, for which she received medication, and did not want her daughter to “go through life suffering.”

So she slashed the baby’s throat. Later, while in jail awaiting 2nd degree murder charges, she killed herself by reportedly placing a plastic bag over her head and suffocating herself to death.

In 2004, a Villanova committee decided to honor Ener by creating the Mine Ener Memorial Study Space in the school’s Falvey Library. The space was designed to “commemorate Ener’s life and work” according to Villanova’s history department. A plaque was to be erected in the library, but before it could be put up, the national media got hold of the story.

The main problem with the plaque was that the university and Ener’s colleagues seemed to be skipping over the whole episode of Ener murdering her infant as if it was all but irrelevant. For example, here’s the text of the invitation that Villanova sent out for the ceremony at which the plaque was to be unveiled,

Villanova students are cordially invited to attend a brief ceremony to dedicate the Mine Ener Memorial in the Study Lounge on the first floor of Falvey Library, to take place on Thursday, January 20, at 9:30 am in the Library. Refreshments will be served.

A popular teacher and widely published specialist on the history of the modern Middle East, Dr. Ener joined the History Department faculty in 1996, and was associate professor and Director of the Center for Arab and Islamic Studies from 2002 until her death in August 2003.

The Memorial has been funded by donations from her many friends, family and colleagues to the Mine Ener Memorial Fund Committee, consisting of Rev. Kail C. Ellis, O.S.A., Dean, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences;Dr. Barbara Wall, Special Assistant to the President for Mission Effectiveness; Dr. Adele Lindenmeyr, Professor and Chair of History; and Dr. Seth Koven, Associate Professor of History. The funds have been used to purchase furnishings for the new student lounge in the Library.

Many of the people who knew Ener defended the plaque claiming that the idea was to honor and remember the Ener they knew and worked with, not the person whose mental faculties progressively slipped to the point where she could murder her infant. As Dom Giordano told Cybercast News Service, however, the circumstances surrounding the murder and suicide certainly make sympathy toward her and her family understandable, but celebrating such a person is simply unacceptable.

In fact, Villanova University itself has taken the same stance in the past. In 1997, a major donor to Villanvoa — John du Pont — was convicted of the 1996 murder of Olympic wrestler David Schultz. Like Ener, du Pont was found guilty but mentally ill (he suffered from schizophrenia).

Did Villanova prefer to remember DuPont the way he was before his mental problems drove him to kill? Not exactly. Instead it quickly stripped his surname off of the basketball court/gymnasium which until then had been named after DuPont in gratitude for all the money he gave them.

And they were right. Despite what DuPont may or may not have been like before his mental illness drove him to murder, killing another human being is not just something you can cast off to the side over refreshments at a ceremony honoring someone.

Villanova eventually caved, and removed the plaque honoring Ener.


Catholic University honors popular teacher who killed her baby. Kathleen Rhodes, CNSNews.Com, January 27, 2005.

Villanova Removes Plaque. WPVI.Com, January 31, 2005.

Silent reminders in Villanova halls. John Grogan, Philadelphia Inquirer, February 18, 2005.

Mom Kills Infant Daughter With Down Syndrome, Then Kills Self. Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express, September 3, 2003.

John du Pont Convicted of Murder. Ginny and John Dover, Schizophrenia.Com, 1997.

Slate’s Jack Shafer Demolishes Washington Post’s Alarmist Story on the Murder of Pregnant Women

The entire nation was shocked by reports earlier this month of the murder of 23-year-old Bobbie Jo Stinnett. What made Stinnett’s murder particularly shocking was that she was strangled and her baby was then cut from her womb, allegedly by Lisa Montgomery who prosecutors say has admitted the crime.

Stinnett’s murder led the Washington Post’s Donna St. George to pen a three-part series, alarmingly titled “Many New or Expectant Mothers Die Violent Deaths.” The text of the three part series describes the circumstances of the murder of a number of women by boyfriends and husband or ex-es and suggests that such murders are relatively common. St. George writes, for example, that,

A year-long examination by The Washington Post of death-record data in states across the country documents the killings of 1,367 pregnant women and new mothers since 1990. This is only part of the national toll, because no reliable system is in place to track such cases.

St. George goes on to quote Texas Woman’s University’s Judith McFarlane as saying that the 1,367 pregnant women is likely just the tip of the iceberg,

That’s a formidable number — and that’s just the tip. You can’t address a problem that we don’t document. You can’t reduce them. You can’t prevent them. In essence, they don’t exist.

But you don’t have to read very far through the article to realize there are serious problems with it. St. George is typical of mainstream media accounts of amorphous problems in which she simultaneously asserts that little is known about the extent of the problem, but goes on to claim that it must nonetheless be a widespread phenomenon.

Slate’s Jack Shafer noticed the obvious problems and wrote a story for that online magazine criticizing St. George for engaging in such alarmist journalism without much of anything to back up her claims. Shafer writes,

Of course, just one maternal homicide is one more than acceptable, so I’m not arguing with the urgency of St. George’s topic. But she ignores available data that might place the horrific numbers she’s collected into relevant context. According to the Department of Justice, total murders of women in the United States peaked in 1993 at 5,550. The number of murders of women by “intimates”?defined by the government as a spouse, ex-spouse, or boyfriend?has also been falling since 1993 (when there were 1,581), reaching its lowest level since 1976 in 2001 and 2002 (which had 1,202 murders each year). These trends are all the more positive when you factor in the dramatic increase in the U.S. population since that time.

St. George briefly alludes to this good news in a sidebar to Part 1: Criminologist Neil Websdale of Northern Arizona University cautions her about overstating the maternal-homicide problem. More than 1,000 women are killed each year in domestic clashes, Websdale tells her, the overwhelming majority of whom are not pregnant. But she promptly drops the subject. Why? Does she fear that these statistics will undermine her thesis?

But there is a bigger, devastating problem with St. George’s claims about the murder of pregnant women, and it has to do with her careful parsing of the claim that she documented “the killings of 1,367 pregnant women and new mothers since 1990.” As Shafer writes (emphasis added),

The pivotal research in her piece is “Enhanced Surveillance for Pregnancy-Associated Mortality–Maryland, 1993-1998,” a 2001 study of 247 “pregnancy-associated” deaths in Maryland between 1993 and 1998 published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. It found that “a pregnant or recently pregnant woman is more likely to be a victim of homicide than to die of any other cause,” which St. George quotes favorably.

But the horror of this JAMA study recedes as you read it. We all know what a pregnant woman is: someone who’s carrying a baby. But what is a “recently pregnant” woman? The JAMA study defines the phrase very broadly. By its definition, mothers who give birth are recently pregnant for the 365 days following delivery. Women whose pregnancies end for any reason are also recently pregnant for 365 days after termination. So, a woman who had an abortion, miscarried, or gave birth to a baby would qualify for inclusion in this mortality study if she died with a year of that event.

In fact of the women in the JAMA study that St. George relies on, there were only 50 homicides among the 247 deaths, and only 23 of those occurred while the woman was pregnant. None of which St. George could be bothered to include in her report.

Similarly, St. George notes that in a Maryland study, “slightly more than 10 percent of all homicides among women ages 14 to 44 happened to a pregnant or postpartum woman in the past decade.” But as Shafer notes, some back-of-the-envelope calculations suggest that 10 percent of women 14 to 44 became pregnant during the same period of time, so its not exactly surprising that 10 percent of female victims of homicide happened to be pregnant at the time. Except, as Shafer notes, just like the JAMA study, the Maryland study also included women who were murdered after they gave birth, miscarried or had an abortion,

Because St. George’s group of Maryland murder victims includes postpartum women, this means the percentage of pregnant women murdered has got to be less than 10 percent. An unstated premise in St. George’s series is that the new findings refute the intuitive sense that pregnancy provides some protection from murder. But, examined closely, St. George’s reporting seems to support the idea that pregnant women are murdered less often than non-pregnant women.

Kudos to Shafer for such a thorough debunking of the Washington Post’s alarmism. Murders like that of pregnant women such as Stinnett or Laci Peterson are certainly horrifying, but they are horrifying in part because they are so rare. St. George’s attempt to imply that maternal murder may be on the rise is undermined by the very information sources she relies upon.


Body Count: Doing the math on the Washington Post’s momicide series. Jack Shafer, Slate.Com, December 24, 2004.

The Muddled Maternal Murder Series: A Washington Post investigation loses its way. Jack Shafer, Slate.Com, December 20, 2004.

Many New or Expectant Mothers Die Violent Deaths. Donna St. George, Washington Post, December 19, 2004.

Hilariously Hypocritical Big Brother 2 Lawsuit

Krista Stegall, who was a contestant on “Big Brother 2”, has filed a lawsuit against CBS over the criteria it used to choose contestants.

In one episode another contestant, Justin Sebik, apparently put a knife to Stegall’s throat and ask if she would be mad if he killed her. He claimed he was joking(!) but CBS kicked him off the show.

Clearly she’s got a good civil lawsuit case against Sebik, but her case against CBS contains an oddity. Her lawyers maintain that since Sebik had prior arrests for assault that CBS never should have allowed him on the show. Stegall’s attorney, Clayton Burgess, told the Associated Press, “I don’t think there’s any doubt (CBS) made a huge mistake letting him in and keeping in him in.”

That certainly makes sense, but her lawyers forget to mention that this standard would also have kept Stegall herself off of the show. Stegall lied to the producer’s of the show by telling them she had never been arrested. In fact she was arrested on March 27, 2001, for simple battery after a 4 a.m. fight with her boyfriend.

The police report noted that both Stegall and the boyfriend had “physical marks” indicating that both had committed “battery on each other.”

Like Sebik, Stegall was never actually prosecuted. Stegall’s boyfriend told the prosecutor he wanted the charges dropped and the prosecutor declined to proceed with the case.


‘Big Brother’ player sues over knife incident. The Associated Press, July 4, 2002.

The Smoking Gun (Krista Stegall).

Cathy Young on Disparities in Punishing Male and Female Killers

As usual, Cathy Young weighs in the July issue of Reason with an excellent examination of disparities in how male and female killers are treated by the American justice system.

Of particular interest is the fact that feminists almost never speak out about such disparities — in fact feminists have actively promoted the falsehood that a man who kills his partner receives only 2-6 years in jail on average compared to a woman who kills her partner who supposedly gets 15 to 20 years. In fact, as Young points out, studies find that men who kill their partners spend about 10 years longer in jail than do women who kill their partners.

As Young writes,

As a result, if a man commits a violent crime against a woman and gets off lightly, an outcry from women?s groups often follows. If it?s the other way round, the only vocal protests are likely to come from the victim?s family and from prosecutors.

The Working case [where a woman received a one day sentence for luring her estranged husband into an ambush and tried to murder him], like the Wagshall case, received minimal publicity. Imagine the reaction if a judge had said publicly that a man who had ambushed and shot his estranged wife should have been spared prison because he was depressed over the divorce.

Of course that would require a real commitment to sexual equality which, so far, many women’s groups are opposed to.


License to Kill
Men and women, crime and punishment
. Cathy Young, Reason, July 2002.

More on Infant Murder

Last week I wrote about a new study about the incredibly high risk that infants have of being murdered during their first year of life. Richard Bennett was the first to point out that the rate of infant murder turns out to be much higher than the murder rate of women.

In the CDC study of infant murders, the CDC found that from 1989 to 1998, infant murders occurred at a rate of 8.3 per 100,000 person years. By contrast, the incidence of single killer/single victim homicides where the victim was a woman was 1.35 per 100,000 in 1999.

But, of course, infant murder is not anywhere on the feminist agenda except in the 11 percent of cases where men are the perpetrators.


Variation in Homicide Risk During Infancy — United States, 1989–1998. Centers for Disease Control, March 8, 2002, 51(09);187-9.