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November 30, 2021

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Parents Wrongfully Convicted In Newborn’s Death Freed After 12 Years In Prison

KEY POINTS

  • The charges against Ashley and Albert Debelbot were dropped and their convictions were overturned
  • Prosecutors said evidence indicated their child had died of natural causes, not murder
  • The couple spent 12 years in prison and said they lost faith in the justice system

A mother and father from Columbus, Georgia, who were convicted in the state’s Superior Court in 2009 of murdering their infant daughter, have been cleared of all their charges after spending over 12 years in prison.

The Georgia Supreme Court overturned the child murder charges against Ashley and Albert Debelbot in February last year on the grounds that the U.S. Army couple were denied their Sixth Amendment right to effective assistance of counsel during their trial, WRBL reported. 

The two veterans were convicted of murdering their newborn child, McKenzy, after a bump was discovered on her forehead shortly after her birth in late May 2008 and they were blamed for the child’s death on June 1. They both received life sentences, serving 12 years each before the charges were dropped.

Muscogee County District Attorney Mark Jones motioned for the court to dismiss the charges against the Debelbots in March 2021, additionally announcing prosecutors would not retry the couple despite Jones’ predecessor indicating otherwise.

“I am not saying they are innocent, but there is reasonable doubt,” Jones said. He pointed out, “I don’t think that prosecuting this case is the best use of time in District Attorney’s office right now.”

The Debelbots’ defense witnesses were prepared to testify in their April 13 hearing that McKenzy suffered from a birth defect and was not harmed by her parents. The witnesses were never called and Jones, instead, apologized to the couple “on behalf of Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit for not getting a fair trial.”

According to Jones, there was “mounting medical evidence that says the child was born this way.”

Ashley, now 37, was quoted by the Associated Press as saying, “To have the DA walk over to me and reach out his hand and apologize, in that moment I was like, ‘This is happening.'”

The couple, however, said they have lost faith in the country’s justice system.

“I joined the Army because I believed in freedom and I believed in democracy… Then I come home to experience injustice. It’s quite disappointing,” said Albert, now 35. 

The Debolbots also said they were never given a chance to mourn over their child’s death. 

“I would have a teenager,” Ashley said as she wondered what it would have been like if McKenzy had lived.

“Who knows how many more childen I would have had by now,” she said.

baby-5534064_1920 (1) Representation. Ashley and Albert Debelbot were convicted of murdering their newborn child in 2008. Photo: Pixabay