UPDATE: Cameron expresses relief at drowning case verdict - KTIV News 4 Sioux City IA: News, Weather and Sports

UPDATE: Cameron expresses relief at drowning case verdict

ONAWA, Iowa (KTIV) -

An Onawa, Iowa mother accused of murdering her son, will not spend the rest of her life behind bars.  A judge found 25-year-old Ashley Cameron guilty of the lesser offenses of involuntary manslaughter, and child endangerment, today.

Ashley Cameron said was relieved by the judge's decision.  While she still faces up to 50-year in prison, she's likely to spend far fewer years behind bars.

"The court cannot include based on the evidence presented at trial that the defendant acted with malice and forethought beyond a reasonable doubt," said Hon. Jeffrey Neary.

"That's when I felt really relieved and knew that he believed me.  Small town politics are not always what they say they are," said Cameron when asked what her first reaction was to hearing the verdict.

Cameron admitted to lying to police, and to telling them several different versions of what happened that February night her son died.  However, it's the story that her defense told, that she's sticking to now.

"I made a horrible mistake by leaving that bathroom that night. I have to live with that every day of my life," Cameron said.

Plenty of people still believe Cameron got away with murder.  Attorney Marchelle Denker was involved in the family's DHS case before Markis Dahms' death.

"I believe that Ashley Cameron should spend the rest of her life incarcerated," Denker said after the verdict.

"I think there was malice and forethought here.  I think that's the only way you can get almost 20 ounces of water into a 15 month old baby," Monona County Attorney Ian McConeghey said.

McConeghey said he wasn't surprised by Neary's decision, but said it would be unethical to elaborate.

In his 19-page decision, Neary found the defense's argument that Markis Dahms drowned when Cameron left the bathroom credible and consistent with the evidence.

"Ashley Cameron, by leaving Markis Dahms in the bathtub with water unattended on Feb. 11th, 2012, unintentionally caused the death of Markis Dahms," Neary told the courtroom.

He also believed the revelation that Cameron put her son's face under a spigot to wash off vomit, and said it was, "excessive." However, Neary said the state did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Cameron did so intentionally to drown her child.

"There's no legitimate purpose to hold a child's head under the water," Denker pointed out.

Involuntary manslaughter, an aggravated misdemeanor, carries a two-year sentence and could be suspended.  The maximum penalty for child endangerment resulting in death is 50-years behind bars.  But with no minimum sentence, Denker said she could be out in a matter of months.  Cameron said her attorney told her to expect ten years.

"I'm willing to cooperate and do what ever I have to just to be able to get through the system, get college classes, do whatever I have to do to be able to see my daughter again," Cameron said.

She said her mother is in the process of adopting her 4 1/2 year old, Abby.  She hasn't seen her since her arrest.

Cameron said she she's gotten a lot of support, outside of her family, from people she's never met.  She said she's received many letters from churches and other people offering prayers.

Cameron will be sentenced on June 28th.  Judge Neary said he has to give Cameron the 50-year maximum sentence, but Iowa's indeterminate sentencing law leaves it up to a parole board to determine how long she really spends behind bars.



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