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Rapid City mother pleads guilty to attempted child abuse in pepper spray case

RAPID CITY, S.D. — A Rapid City woman pleaded guilty Friday, April 5, to attempted child abuse after being accused of pepper spraying her 11-year-old son last April.

As part of the plea deal, prosecutors will drop charges of child abuse, simple assault (domestic abuse) and nonsupport of child by parents. Ashley Ellis, 33, could be sentenced to up to five years in state prison, but prosecutors said they will agree to ask the judge for local jail time and probation. If she had been found guilty of child abuse, she could have spent up to 10 years in prison.

Ellis, who cried during the hearing, did not explain what she did and Judge Matt Brown did not read from the factual basis document she signed. But Rapid City police said Ellis admitted pepper spraying her son three times on the morning of April 1, 2018, according to court documents.

The first incident allegedly happened at their home when the boy talked back to Ellis after she scolded him and his sister for making noise while she was sleeping and for opening their Easter baskets early. She reportedly then drove to the parking lot across from the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center, tried to leave the boy in the parking lot, but he kept trying to get back in her SUV.

Ellis said she “sprayed him again on the face to stop him from damaging her vehicle,” police officer Patrick Rose said in a report obtained from the Pennington County Courthouse.

After Ellis left, police said a man and woman saw the boy coughing and spitting in the parking lot. He complained of pain to his face and eyes. An ambulance took him to Rapid City Regional to be evaluated. He and his sister were later turned over to the Department of Social Services.

Another police officer who spoke to Ellis, Nicholas Allender, wrote that she “showed no remorse for spraying her child with pepper spray” and tried to justify her behavior by saying “she had a lot going on.”

Ellis, who remains out on bond, is scheduled for sentencing at 11 a.m on May 17.