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Teenage girl charged with murder could be bailed out with $5,000 cash
DIXON, Mo. (Jan. 16, 2010) — Over the objections of Pulaski County Prosecuting Attorney Deborah Hooper, a teenage suspect in the beating death of a Dixon man has had her bond reduced to the point that she could bail out with as little as a $5,000 cash payment by her parents.

Meeting with attorneys in his chambers without the media present, Circuit Judge Tracy Storie decided Thursday morning that Ashley N. Gilbert, 18, would be allowed to post bond of $50,000 cash or surety, with 10 percent payment allowed if posted by her parents.

“If she does bail out, she will be required to be on house arrest,” said Brendon Fox, a Rolla lawyer who represents Gilbert. “She does have a good family support structure that will help assure that she follows all the conditions of her bond.”

As of Saturday evening, jail personnel confirmed that Gilbert is still in jail and no one has yet posted bond for her.

That’s the second time Storie has reduced Gilbert’s bond; on Aug. 5, Storie reduced what was initially a $1 million cash-only bond down to $100,000, and now has reduced it further.

Both Gilbert and her co-defendant, Robert Fortner, 31, also of Dixon, have pleaded innocent to a Class A felony charge of second-degree murder accusing them of acting in concert with another with the purpose of causing serious physical injury to David A. Blankenship on May 10 and causing his death by repeatedly striking him with their hands and feet.

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

In Gilbert’s case, she’s claiming a defense of “mental disease or defect excluding responsibility” for her actions and was evaluated by Fulton State Hospital personnel in October. Her case is scheduled for a two-day jury trial in Pulaski County beginning Monday, May 17, with a pretrial conference on April 7.

While Gilbert has no prior criminal record according to electronic court filings, Fortner had been on probation for a driving-while-intoxicated Class B misdemeanor conviction on April 7, just five weeks before he was accused of killing Blankenship. Fortner’s probation was revoked on Aug. 8 and was ordered to serve a 180-day sentence in the Pulaski County Jail, with credit for time served since he was arrested. Fortner’s case transferred to Phelps County on Sept. 17 on a change-of-venue where Maries County Associate Circuit Judge John Clayton is scheduled to have a two-day jury trial beginning on Thursday, March 11, with a March 4 pre-trial conference.

The initial bond was set on May 13 by Associate Circuit Judge Colin Long, who ordered the cash-only bond and also forbade any contact between Gilbert and her co-defendant.

While, Fortner hasn’t requested a reduction in his $1 million cash-only bond, according to electronic court records, Gilbert’s case has been marked by repeated appeals against strict decisions by the judges which were later relaxed, usually over the objections of the prosecuting attorney.

Gilbert was initially denied a public defender but Long decided on May 13 that she was entitled to a free lawyer at government expense. By May 22, Gilbert had retained Fox who applied on May 26 for a bond reduction which was denied. Long conducted a preliminary hearing on that date, found probable cause to believe that Gilbert had committed a felony, and bound the case over to circuit court.

That issue came up again before Storie on Aug. 5 when Storie, over Hooper’s objections, decided to reduce Gilbert’s bond to $100,000 cash or surety with the standard requirement that she obey all laws while out on bond. Gilbert’s mental evaluation report was filed on Nov. 9 and Fox requested another bond reduction on Nov. 13. The bond reduction hearing was postponed until this week when Storie granted the request.

Additional conditions of the bond include that Gilbert is to be “under house arrest with electronic monitoring and drug testing supervised by OCCS,” which is a local probation supervision agency, that trips by Gilbert to her lawyer’s office must be cleared in advance, that Gilbert “shall have no contact with any witnesses through any media,” that she is not allowed to be on school premises, and that she’s not allowed to drive any automobiles.

Gilbert is also required to have an evaluation for anger or mental conditions with follow-up treatment to be arranged by OCCS.

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