Ashley A. Conroy, the mother of the child who died in a Steamboat Island house fire Monday morning, was charged with second-degree manslaughter during an appearance in Thurston County Superior Court on Tuesday afternoon.
The 22-year-old woman was released from the Thurston County Jail on her personal recognizance after Judge Ann Hirsch determined that she wasn’t a flight risk, despite Thurston County Deputy Prosecutor Mark Thompson’s request that she be held in lieu of $250,000 bail.
“We understand that this was a tragic situation given the defendant’s relationship to the deceased,” Thompson said. “But it was a preventable death so we are treating it as a homicide.” As part of the conditions of her release, Conroy won’t be allowed to contact any children unless another adult is present and knows of the charge she is facing.
Although Hirsch permitted Conroy’s release, she said that the case was “troubling.”
“It doesn’t get much more serious as far as the allegations go,” Hirsch said. “This case presents some very troubling allegations.”
According to Thurston County Coroner Gary Warnock, 18-month-old William Bradsnyder died of smoke inhalation during the fire.
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 at 4:55 a.m. and found an 18-month-old boy who 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 in the past month. Residents had been able to extinguish the fires on their own.
The grill was found plugged into the wall, with the cord draped across the room. The room was very dirty and filled with clothes, garbage and car parts. The grill had been placed less than one foot away from the bed.
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 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 in the room 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.
Conroy is scheduled to enter a plea on the manslaughter charge during a 10 a.m. arraignment on Nov. 18.