News| Woman jailed after 18-month dies in housefire

A 23-year-old Thurston County woman was jailed Wednesday and will remain there until she stands trial for the November 2014 death of her 18-month-old child.

Ashley A. Conroy appeared before Thurston County Superior Court Judge James Dixon Wednesday after she was arrested Tuesday for failing to appear in court on Nov. 12. Conroy is facing manslaughter charges in the case. Her trial is scheduled for the week of Feb. 8, 2016.

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Judge Anne Hirsch had released Conroy on her personal recognizance a year ago at her preliminary hearing. Conroy failed to appear in court on Sept. 2, and was arrested on a bench warrant. On Sep. 3, Hirsch again released Conroy on her personal recognizance. On Wednesday, Dixon said that in addition to failing to appear in court, Conroy also violated two of the conditions of her release: she allegedly possessed drugs, and had contact with witnesses in the manslaughter case.

Deputy Prosecutor Joseph Wheeler asked that Conroy be held without bail until she goes to trial, based on the nature of the charges and her history of failing to appear in court. Defense attorney Sara Hixson, of the Office of Assigned Counsel, asked that bail be set at $5,000. She said Conroy is eight months pregnant and wanted to be able to attend her medical appointments. Dixon ruled that Conroy would be held without bail until the case is resolved. Court documents give the following account of the circumstances leading to Conroy’s arrest:

Thurston County Sheriff’s deputies responded to a home at 7030 Steamboat Island Road on Nov. 3, 2014, and found an 18-month-old boy who had died in a fire. The home was a converted shop building with three bedrooms, heated exclusively with portable heaters.

The fire appeared to have started in a bedroom that had been heated with an electric grill, with the grill portion removed. Other residents of the home told deputies that Conroy had been warned on several occasions not to use the grill as a heater — especially after the grill started two smaller fires. Residents had been able to extinguish the fires on their own. The grill was found plugged into the wall and less than a foot away from the bed. The room was dirty and filled with clothes, garbage and car parts.

Conroy told deputies that she had put her son to sleep at about 2:30 a.m. and left to eat in a neighboring building. She said she had been gone for about 30 minutes when another resident discovered that the room had caught on fire. A nearby man tried to rescue the child, but he wasn’t able to enter the room because of the flames. Conroy also tried to enter the room and received a minor burn on her face when she opened the door.

The child was found under a desk, with the heater cord wrapped around his left leg. Based on his injuries, deputies believe that he had been crawling through the room and became tangled in the cord before the fire started. According to court documents, Conroy has no criminal history.

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