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Ashley Gilbert pleads guilty, but only to institutional vandalism, not murder
Ashley Gilbert pleads guilty, but only to institutional vandalism, not murder

Ashley Gilbert
DIXON, Mo. (Dec. 8, 2010) — Dixon resident Ashley N. Gilbert finally pleaded guilty in court, but it wasn’t to the crime with which she was originally charged, beating and kicking a Dixon man to death in his home. Instead, her attorney filed a written plea Wednesday morning in which Gilbert, now 19, admitted that she “knowingly damaged a window in the Pulaski County Jail” on Aug. 26 of last year while being held on the murder charges.

“The other case is not yet completed,” noted Prosecutor Deborah Hooper after Gilbert’s attorney, Brendon Fox, accepted the plea on Gilbert’s behalf.

“She accepted it; our witness is in Washington state,” Hooper noted.

The plea bargain accepted Monday is to the Class A misdemeanor of institutional vandalism and she accepted a sentence of a $100 fine, $238.19 restitution, and $118.50 court costs. St. Robert Glass estimated the jail window repair cost at $238.19.

That’s a lesser charge than the original Class D felony charge of damaging jail property, which carries a standard penalty of two to four years in state prison or a special term of up to one year in a county jail plus a $5,000 fine.

The original charge accused Gilbert of punching out a cell window with her fists, causing the window to shatter. That charge was filed by Hooper in a document signed with a handwritten date of April 9 of this year but reported in online court records as being filed on April 14.

It’s not clear why the charge wasn’t filed for nearly eight months after the offense. The probable cause statement in Gilbert’s case was filed by a sheriff’s deputy on Oct. 14 of last year. That deputy reported that Gilbert had become violent on Aug. 26 after being placed on a lockdown for 24 hours. By 9:20 p.m., on that August night, she started to “become irate and started to yell profanities.” Gilbert was placed back into a jail cell and struck the window “with her hand causing the glass to shatter.”

Gilbert had been in jail awaiting trial for more than a year, having pleaded innocent to a Class A felony charge of second-degree murder. She was accused of kicking and beating Dixon resident David A. Blankenship to death on May 10 of last year along with her ex-boyfriend, Robert Fortner, 31, also of Dixon, who until he entered a plea agreement had been facing the same charges. Both were accused of causing Blankenship’s death by repeatedly striking him with their hands and feet.

The maximum penalty for a Class A felony is 10 to 30 years or life in prison, depending on circumstances.

Gilbert had been scheduled for trial beginning Sept. 13, but the Phelps County Circuit Clerk confirmed on Sept. 10 that Hooper had decided to drop the case against Gilbert. Fortner, her co-defendant, had a trial date set for June 28 through July 2, but then pleaded guilty to the lesser Class B felony of voluntary manslaughter with a maximum penalty of five to 15 years.

He’s now being held on a sentence of eight years in state prison.

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