Murder Charges Against Charles Ford Dropped

By: 
Harrison Mines

THURSDAY-- Charles Ford III, father of infant Charlee Ford, whose death helped spawn the investigation of the Rockbridge Area Department of Social Services, accepted a plea deal this afternoon in which the charges of homicide and first degree murder against him were dropped.

Interim Commonwealth Attorney Jared Moon motioned to drop the murder charges after sharing that the prosecution was made aware of errors made by the state lab in Charlee Ford's toxicology report following her death.

Charlee Ford was born prematurely and diagnosed with cerebral palsy and a seizure disorder on Dec. 21, 2015. She was also born with marijuana and opioids in her system. Because of the circumstances surrounding her birth, the Department of Social Services implemented a safety plan that called for Charles Ford and mother Diana Hazelwood to properly administer Charlee's seizure medication.

Charlee Ford was found to have died from sudden unexpected infant death syndrome in April 2016. A toxicology report returned in May 2017 claimed Charlee did not have anti-seizure medication in her system, initiating charges of criminal negligence against Ford and Hazelwood.

Moon stated in court today it was revealed in late October 2018 that the toxicology report made an error and there was, in fact, anti-seizure medication in Charlee's system at the time of her death.

"I am unable in good conscience to continue with the prosecution of these charges with this evidence," Moon said.

As part of his plea agreement, Ford pleaded guilty to one count of felony child cruelty. He will serve an active sentence of three years for that charge.

Hazelwood pleaded guilty to non-capital felony murder on Dec. 18, 2017. She is due in court for sentencing Sept. 16.

"I loved my daughter with all my heart," Ford said to the court. "It was my lack of foresight that killed her."

 

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