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Carbon woman sent to jail for endangering her young son

A Carbon County woman was sentenced to a county prison term on Thursday after previously admitting to endangering her son by not giving him his proper medication.

Judge Steven R. Serfass sentenced Ashley Whiteman, 25, of Palmerton, to serve six to one day less 24 months in prison on a charge of endangering the welfare of a child. In a plea bargain with the district attorney’s office, a second count of endangering and one count of recklessly endangering another person were dropped.

Serfass rejected the request of Whiteman’s legal counsel, Mark M. Mack, to sentence her at the low end of state sentencing guidelines, which was three months.

Whiteman admitted to not providing her then 4-year-old son with medication which was prescribed to help control seizures he would suffer.

On June 4, Detective Kevin Buck of the Palmerton police received a report regarding the medical neglect of a 4-year-old boy, with the suspect being identified as Whiteman.

According to the affidavit of probable cause filed by Buck:

Through the course of the investigation it was discovered that on June 3, 2018, the child was taken to Lehigh Valley Hospital-Cedar Crest campus by Whiteman’s cousins for seizures.

Police learned that Whiteman had abandoned the child at the home of her cousins on May 23, and did so without leaving any clothing, food or prescribed seizure medication.

On June 3, while still in the care of Whiteman’s cousins, the child suffered another seizure resulting in the current guardians taking the child to the hospital.

The hospital staff repeatedly attempted to contact Whiteman, who did not return any hospital telephone calls, nor calls from her cousins.

As a result of this, the hospital took administrative custody of the child.

Police learned that Whiteman had stopped giving the child his prescribed seizure medication for about one month before this episode, nor had she taken him for any follow-up care.

The caregivers told Buck that from the time the child was about 4 months old, Whiteman would drop him off with her cousins, sometimes for one to two nights, then increasing to two weeks to a month, and sometimes longer, never knowing when she was going to return and each time failing to provide the child’s insurance cards or medication.

Police said about one year ago while the child was in the hospital for a seizure, Whiteman signed him out and refused to get an MRI of the head as was recommended.

In February the child had suffered from six seizures in one day and Whiteman failed to appear for a follow-up appointment with the neurologist.

On June 12 Buck sat in on an interview with Whiteman that was conducted by a Children and Youth caseworker. During that interview Whiteman said that the child suffered his first seizure at around the age of 2½ years old, and has had about 20 since then.

Whiteman said that the child was prescribed Keppra for his seizures, and that he was taking 7.5 milligrams twice a day when she stopped the medicine.

Whiteman said that she stopped giving it to him because she did not like the side effects. She told Serfass on Thursday that the medication would make the child violent and that he would try to pull out his hair.

The police report also indicated that she had allowed the insurance to lapse three to four times and she was unable to afford to pay for the medicine.

A doctor was consulted, who said that Whiteman’s stopping of the medication placed the child at serious risk of permanent injury, and possible death, as a result of the seizures.

Serfass, in rejecting the lower prison term said, “Clearly there is a troubling set of facts.” He said Whiteman put her child in danger in not giving him his medication. “Fortunately, there was not more grave consequences.” Concerning the prison term, Serfass said, it was not “only warranted but required.”

Whiteman told the court, “I made a mistake and I want to pay for it and move on with my life.”

Assistant District Attorney Brian B. Gazo, who prosecuted the case, said he and Mack spent a lot of time negotiating a solution in the case. He agreed with Mack that the commonwealth was not opposed to a 90-day jail term.

In addition to the prison term Serfass ordered Whiteman to make restitution of $8,416.71 to the state department of human services for medical bills it paid for the child, she must get a mental health evaluation and follow any recommendation for treatment, attend and successfully complete a parenting course, supply a DNA sample, pay court costs of about $1,000 and pay a $50 per month supervision fee while on parole.

She began the jail term immediately.