Parents Arrested in Benton Child Shooting Death

Local News
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BENTON, Ark. – The parents of a two-year-old boy, who was shot and killed in Benton last week, were both arrested Monday afternoon.

Tabitha Ashley, 23, and Phillip Ashley, 27, both of Benton face charges of manslaughter and first-degree endangering the welfare of a minor. 

“We did have enough information and evidence to go ahead and make two arrests in the case,” said Lt. Kevin Russell, the PIO for the Benton Police Department. 

On November 17, police were called to a residence on Nelson Circle in response to a shooting. 

The family told Fox 16 News the child, Bladen Ashley, shot himself in the head with a pistol and later died.

Lt. Russell confirmed the child died as a result of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, but officers are still investigating how the boy got his hands on the gun. 

“I don’t prefer the term ‘accidental shooting’ because there are people charged in this,” said Lt. Russell. “So a ‘self-inflicted gunshot wound’ is the term we like to go by. In my 17 years here, I cannot remember a case similar in nature involving such a young child and a gunshot victim. It’s just really tragic.”

Lt. Russell confirmed officers will also use a police report from Oct. 26 in their investigation that Fox 16 first reported on last week. 

The Benton Police Department report revealed Bladen was wandering on Edison Avenue in only a diaper and jacket, three weeks prior to his death. 

His mom, Tabitha Ashley, was cited that day with third-degree child endangerment. 

“That is something that detectives are working with DHS authorities on determining if there was a link between those cases,” Russell said. “That’s kind of where we’re going forward with the rest of the case.”

Lt. Russell said Bladen’s parents could face additional charges as the investigation continues. 

The Benton Police Department is working with the Saline County prosecutor’s office, DHS and the state crime lab. 

Lt. Russell confirmed Bladen’s six-year-old sister is in DHS custody.

The family told Fox 16 there will be a hearing Tuesday morning to possibly see who gets custody of her.

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