According to a press release from the Scott County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office, Gate City resident Ashley Marie Cowan was arrested on Wednesday. Indictments for felony child abuse and felony child neglect were leveled earlier this month by a Scott County grand jury.
Commonwealth’s Attorney Dan Fellhauer reports an investigation was launched on April 5. It was spurred by Cowan’s infant being treated for bilateral retinal hemorrhages at Niswonger Children’s Hospital in Johnson City. Additional medical exams revealed what appeared to be numerous non-accidental subdural bilateral hematomas, or brain bleeds, resulting in blindness.
When questioned at the hospital by social workers, Cowan reportedly attacked them. She has since been convicted for the assaults against them.
As for the child abuse case, several agencies were involved in the investigation, including the Scott County Department of Social Services, Tennessee Social Services, the Scott County Sheriff’s Office and Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office.
“Scott County does not have a hospital or similar treatment facility, which makes it very difficult to quickly coordinate investigations and prosecutions across state lines,” said Fellhauer. “Scott County was able to indict this defendant thanks to a change in law that took effect on July 1st that was sponsored by 6th District Delegate Jeff Campbell, from Smyth County, and passed with unanimous support in the House and Senate.”
The new law allows Virginia prosecutors and law enforcement to take jurisdiction in child abuse cases if the child resided in Virginia at the time of the violence. Fellhauer said that offenders, witnesses and victims often move to other jurisdictions to avoid prosecution, but that will no longer be the case in rural communities like Scott County.
Cowan is currently held in the Southwest Virginia Regional Jail without bond. Her child is no longer hospitalized, but is still receiving medical treatment.