On April 3, 2014, the Presque Isle County Sheriff’s Department was dispatched to a home in Hawks where a baby was found unresponsive and not breathing. Ashton Robert Richardson, who was only three weeks old at the time, was rushed to Alpena Regional Medical Center, where he was discovered to have suffered from injuries to his head and internal organs.
Hospital staff determined that the injuries were not consistent with an accident, and police were alerted to a possible child abuse situation. Little Ashton was later transferred to Covenant Hospital in Saginaw, where he died of brain trauma caused by blunt force injuries to his head.
And a child abuse case suddenly became a murder investigation.
18-year-old Kirsten Marie Richardson who is the baby’s mother, and her boyfriend, Joshua Alan Tough, were arrested. In later interviews with police, Kirsten admitted to leaving her baby in her boyfriend’s care on a number of occasions, knowing that he had a history of abusive behaviors and mental illness.
Detectives claimed that there were several inconsistencies in Tough’s story, and together with the medical examiner’s report and his girlfriend’s admission that Tough had been alone with the baby repeatedly, that was enough. Tough was charged with first degree murder and first degree child abuse.
But Richardson was not free to go, even though it was determined that her boyfriend had been the direct cause of the baby’s death. After all, she had stood by, prosecutors claimed, and allowed it to happen. She was a contributor.
Richardson was charged with second degree child abuse, but accepted a plea and in return for testifying against Tough in his trial, pled guilty to third degree child abuse instead. She was sentenced to 9 months in jail, with credit for 157 days already served, to be followed by 18 month of probation after her release.
Tough has pleaded not guilty to the charges he faces, and is scheduled for trial later this month.