JACKSBORO, TN. (WLAF)- Ashely Ledford has found herself without an attorney just as she was set to go to trial on child abuse charges.
She and Brandon Stepp were indicted in April 2019 on three counts each of aggravated child abuse and neglect in a child under 8 years of age. The alleged victim is Stepp’s daughter, who was seven years old at the time.
Ledford’s trial was scheduled for Sept 14 and 15 but, following court on Monday, she is now without an attorney. The public defender’s office was allowed to withdraw from the case. In court, it was indicated that Ledford has not been assisting with defense and has failed to stay in touch with her attorney. Originally, the public defender’s office asked to be released from the case in Nov. 2020.
Eighth Judicial District Criminal Court Judge Shayne Sexton agreed to allow the public defender’s office to resign from the case. He also ordered that Ledford, who didn’t appear in court, be arrested and held until the court convenes again.
The couple was initially arrested in February 2019 after a concerned physician notified EMS that a child needed to be seen at East Tennessee Children’s Hospital (ETCH), according to the arrest report.
When EMS arrived at Stepp’s home, he and his daughter were outside. Stepp told the first responders his daughter had been ill with the flu for roughly four days and that he woke up earlier that day to find the child’s “eye bruised and swollen shut.” The doctor who treated his daughter recommended she be seen at ETCH for further testing, but Stepp failed to take her. A lack of “gas and good tires” had prevented him from seeking medical care for the child, according to the report. When the local physician learned this, he dispatched the EMS crew to transport the child.
Crews found the child “thin and pale” with a “large swollen bruise” over her left eye and cheek, the report said. She also allegedly had a bruise on the bridge of her nose, a knot on the left side of her head, along with bruises on scalp and above her ear.
A disclosure from the little girl named Ledford as her abuser and her father as being complicit with the abuse. Ledford had “whooped” her while her father did nothing to stop her, the child disclosed. After further questioning, the child told authorities Ledford had been repeatedly abusing her.
Ledford allegedly struck the child frequently “all over body” and would strike her in the head, pull her hair and squeeze parts of her body, the report said.
Staff at ETCH reported the bruises on the child’s face had been “intentional.” (WLAF NEWS PUBLISHED 08/26/2021- 6AM)