Mother sentenced to 9 years, father 7 years in childs starving death
A judge sentenced a Mount Pleasant woman to serve 9 years in prison and her husband to serve seven years in the 2010 starvation death of their 9-month-old son.
Charles Lewis Gordon IV, 30, and his wife, 28-year-old Ashley Gordon, pleaded guilty Tuesday to homicide by child neglect in the death of their son Andrew.
Circuit Judge J.C. Nicholson imposed sentencing after waiting a day and hearing from the couple’s attorneys, who said the parents didn’t mean to cause their child harm but should have taken him to a doctor when they saw he wasn’t gaining weight.
Ashley Pennington, Charles Gordon’s attorney, said there are indications that the child may have had trouble swallowing or absorbing food. Andrew’s 7-year-old brother told counselors that he didn’t recall the infant crying or displaying behavior that would indicate he was suffering, he said.
Choking back tears, Ashley Gordon told the judge that a day doesn’t go by without her wishing she could go back in time and do things differently. “I loved Andrew with all my heart and I will continue to love Andrew with all my heart,” she said.
When she looked at him, she said, all she ever saw was “my happy little boy.”
“I knew he was small, but I truly believed that it wasn’t as serious as it was,” she said.
No one argued that the couple intentionally set out to harm their son. The case turned on the fact that they took no steps to seek care for the boy as he wasted away.
On July 5, 2010, the baby was found unresponsive in his crib, which was littered with bottles and feces. Old food and soiled clothing were strewn on the floor of the home on Tomota Court.
Andrew later died at a hospital, weighing just 6 pounds, 9 ounces - 1 pound, 11 ounces less than his birth weight.
The charge to which the couple pleaded guilty carries a sentence of 20 years to life. The law, however, does not specifically say that a judge cannot impose a lesser sentence if he or she chooses. And Pennington had pointed to several similar cases in which a judge did just that.
Nicholson sentenced each parent to 12 years in prison, but suspended Ashley Gordon’s sentence to nine years and Charles Gordon’s sentence to seven years. The husband received less time because evidence showed that he was battling post-traumatic stress disorder from his military service in Afghanistan .
Assistant Solicitor Debbie Herring-Lash said the case was a horrible tragedy. The family was living in filthy conditions, and Andrew’s death likely could have been prevented if his parents had taken him to a doctor or took a more active role in his care.
The couple fed the infant eight to 10 bottles of formula a day, but the bottles were often left propped up on a towel for the baby to feed off of, Herring-Lash said. On other occasions, the 7-year-old was left to prepare formula and feed the child, she said.
Andrew was not dehydrated at the time of his death, so it may have been a case where the formula was not prepared correctly and he was only getting the water from the mix, she said.
Charleston County Coroner Rae Wooten said she was disappointed in the sentence. She said the courts continue to pursue harsh punishments for killers in adult homicides while handing out lighter sentences for “individuals who are 100 percent responsible for caring for our most vulnerable citizens.”
While his parents may have been struggling with stress and financial problems, the fact remains that Andrew suffered a slow, painful death at their hands, Wooten said. They had two other children, so they have should have known that action was needed, she said.
“This child depended on them 100 percent for his life, and they let him down,” she said.
The couple’s lawyer had portrayed their life as cash-strapped and chaotic. Ashley Gordon held a part-time job at a CVS pharmacy, but the family had no health insurance and was wrestling with debt for months.
The couple must serve 85 percent of their sentences before they are eligible for release, but they will get credit for time spent in jail after their arrests. Charles Gordon served 160 days; Ashley, 150.
They will be on probation for five years after their release. Ashley Gordon is required to take parenting classes and Charles Gordon must get mental health counseling.
Their other children have been placed in the custody of relatives, authorities said.
Reach Glenn Smith at 937-5556 or Twitter.com/glennsmith5.