Florida couple charged after child found dead, 2 others found malnourished

CLEARWATER, Fla. (AP/WSVN) — Authorities say a Florida couple is facing charges ranging from manslaughter to child neglect involving three children, one of whom died last year.

The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office says 33-year-old Ashley Ferguson and 34-year-old Matthew Ferguson were arrested Thursday. She is charged with aggravated manslaughter of a child and two counts of child neglect. He faces three counts of child neglect.

It wasn’t immediately clear if they have lawyers to represent them.

The case began in July 2020, when deputies were sent to a Clearwater home to investigate a report of an unresponsive child. That child was pronounced dead at the home.

Fox 13 reports that the other children could not speak and their legs were so weak they could barely walk. The children were deprived of nutrition, medical treatment and parental care.

Investigators also said the children had bedsores, diaper rash and severely matted hair. Deputies said Ashley Ferguson admitted that the children’s primary source of food was milk.

The sheriff’s office also said that the couple never got medical treatment for the children. They added that Ashley Ferguson also admitted to Matthew Ferguson that she had lied about medical appointments.

Detectives said the two surviving children received immediate medical care, including oral surgery and feeding therapy. In addition, they will also get physical and speech therapy.

The couple was booked into the Pinellas County jail. Ashley Ferguson was being held without bail. Matthew Ferguson was being held in lieu of $40,000 bail.

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