A Florida couple accused of neglect is in custody after one of their three children died and the other two lost the ability to walk or speak, authorities said.
According to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, an investigation into Ashley Marie Ferguson and Matthew Aaron Ferguson began on July 12, 2020, after deputies went to the couple’s Clearwater home in response to an emergency services call about an unresponsive child.
According to police, Ashley Ferguson found the child in a bedroom and called for help, but it was already too late and first responders pronounced the child dead.
Sheriff’s deputies and Child Protection investigators started looking into the matter and made some disturbing discoveries.
“Detectives learned the children were malnourished, that they had not received adequate medical care, and were left unattended for long periods of time,” the Sheriff’s office stated.
“The investigation determined that the children had bedsores, diaper rash, severely matted hair, were unable to walk or bear any weight on their legs, and were also unable to speak,” deputies noted, adding that the mother, Ashley, “admitted the children’s primary source of food was milk.”
Authorities claimed neither Ashley nor Matthew Ferguson ever sought medical attention for their children, including after one lost the ability to walk in April 2020. Ashley allegedly lied to her husband about medical appointments.
Officials placed the couple’s two surviving children in the care of a family member and they received immediate medical care, including oral surgery as well as feeding, physical and speech therapy.
On Feb. 26, the results of an autopsy showed the deceased child’s death was the result of homicide caused by chronic child neglect, deputies said.
Law enforcement officials arrested the Fergusons on March 4 and booked both into the Pinellas County Jail.
Ashley Ferguson is being held without bail and faces charges of aggravated manslaughter of a child and two counts of neglect of a child.
Matthew Ferguson’s bail was set at $40,000. He is charged with three counts of neglect of a child.