Christina Dillard enters guilty plea

Published 1:28 pm Thursday, May 21, 2009

The last of the two suspects in the death of 12 year-old Ashley Andrews has pleaded guilty to a charge of negligent manslaughter.

Wednesday Circuit Court Judge Prentiss Harrell accepted Christina Dillard’s plea of guilty to culpable negligent manslaughter. He set her sentencing hearing for June 4, at 1 p.m.

After Harrell ensured Dillard was entering the plea of her own free will and was of sound mind, the District Attorney’s Office offered a proffer of the evidence against Dillard had the case gone to trial.

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Assistant District Attorney Monya Creel Bryan read the evidence aloud, saying that on Oct. 10, 2005, Andrews missed the bus and had to stay home where her mother, Christina Dillard, stepfather Shaun Dillard and half brother Kyle Dillard, all stayed on 35 North Fork Road. The closest neighbor to the double wide trailer was down the road.

The whole family was home that day and were the only ones to witness the events of that and the following two days. According to statements given in the investigation, Andrews failed to listen to her parent’s demands that Monday and was beaten with tree limbs, a fishing rod and a belt. As a result of the beating, Andrews did not go to school the following day since the parents feared reports would be made to the Department of Human Services.

On Oct. 11, she was again beaten to the point that hair was pulled from her head, Bryan read from the evidence. Again on Oct. 12, a Wednesday, Andrews was not allowed to go to school for fear of a report to DHS. Andrews died that day due to manual strangulation, according to autopsy reports.

Evidence showed that Christina participated in the beatings of Andrews. Bryan said that since Christina Dillard was Andrews’ mother she had a duty to protect Andrews and see that Andrews at least received medical care.

Pictures displaying the brutality of the beatings were submitted into evidence, but not shown to the court.

Evidence presented in the preliminary hearing held in 2005 stated that Andrews also was sexually assaulted prior to her death.

Shaun Dillard was initially charged with capital murder, statutory rape and two counts of sexual battery when he went before Harrell in July of 2008. Shaun Dillard pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting in the capital murder of Andrews. During that plea hearing, Shaun Dillard was asked if he had ever seen Christina Dillard choke Andrews. He said he had.

Shaun Dillard was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

District Attorney Hal Kittrell said the reason his office agreed to Christina Dillard’s plea was because Harrell would not allow into evidence five of the seven statements Dillard provided to the Sheriff’s Department. Kittrell said those statements were denied due to Christina Dillard’s making those statements without her defense representation present. That lack of evidence, and therefore lack of corroboration, would have hindered the prosecution’s ability to seek capital punishment on the original capital murder charge.

“This is one of the most tragic and sad cases I’ve seen in my (nine) years of prosecuting,” Kittrell said. “Unfortunately, because of the court’s position not to allow certain statements from Christina Dillard to be introduced in this matter, were it to go to trial, it is our opinion that we were severely impaired in our ability to obtain a capital murder conviction.”

Kittrell said the maximum sentence Christina Dillard can receive for her guilty plea is 20 years.