LARGO — A couple face charges of manslaughter and neglect after Pinellas deputies say they severely neglected three children in 2020, leading to the death of one child.
The surviving children could not speak, deputies say, and their legs were so weak they could barely walk or not walk at all. The children were deprived of nutrition, medical treatment and parental care.
Ashley and Matthew Ferguson were arrested Thursday. The 33-year-old woman faces charges of aggravated manslaughter of a child and two counts of child neglect. The 34-year-old man was arrested on three counts of child neglect.
The investigation started July 12, 2020, when deputies were sent to a High Point home to investigate a report of an unresponsive child, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office. The agency withheld the names and ages of all three children and did not say how long they were deprived and neglected.
Ashley Ferguson found the child in a bedroom. Largo Fire Rescue paramedics arrived and pronounced the child dead at the home.
Deputies soon determined that the children were malnourished, left without medical care and “left unattended for long periods of time,” according to the Sheriff’s Office.
The children “had bedsores, diaper rash, severely matted hair, were unable to walk or bear any weight on their legs, and were also unable to speak,” the agency said.
The woman said their “primary source of food was milk.”
One child had lost the ability to walk weeks earlier, in April 2020. The couple never took the children to a doctor, according to the Sheriff’s Office, and the wife had lied to the husband about the children’s medical appointments.
The surviving children required immediate medical care, including oral surgery and feeding therapy, according to the Sheriff’s Office. Four days after one child was found dead, deputies placed the other two in the care of a relative. They require physical and speech therapy.
An autopsy was performed on the child who died, but the Sheriff’s Office did not release the results. Those findings led to the child’s death being ruled a homicide on Feb. 26, deputies said. The cause of death: chronic child neglect.
The couple was booked into the Pinellas County jail. Ashley Ferguson is being held without bail. Matthew Ferguson is being held in lieu of $40,000 bail.