Caregiver found guilty of battering and strangling man with cerebral palsy

Published: Apr. 20, 2022 at 7:42 PM EDT
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MARSHALL COUNTY, Ind. (WNDU) - On Wednesday, a Marshall County jury finds a man guilty on two charges after he was accused of strangling and battering a disabled Marshall County man under his care more than two years ago.

The jury found Ashley Humphrey guilty on an L-5 felony charge for battery of a disabled person resulting in bodily injury and an L-6 felony for strangulation.

The state presented four witnesses to explain what happened to Cody Cole on Sept. 12th 2019, while under Humphrey’s care.

Cole took the stand to explain what happened as a first-hand account. The jury also heard from Cole’s aunt, the sheriff’s deputy who responded to the incident, and the forensics nurse that examined Cole’s bruises and abrasions.

Cole told the jury that he has cerebral palsy, evident by the scooter he has to use to get around. He also struggles to speak clearly. He said he must rely on a caregiver to complete simple daily tasks.

Cole claimed that he and Humphrey got into an altercation about attending a local high school football game the following day, even exchanging strong language.

Cole said this resulted in Humphrey kicking Cole’s bedroom door in.

Then he says Humphrey hit his wheelchair from the side knocking it back three to five feet, before grabbing Cole by the neck for 10-15 seconds.

The defense said Cole’s first-hand account is not reliable.

Cole admitted to using marijuana generally while on the stand, something he denied when asked about it during a 2020 deposition because he, “didn’t want that to be used against him.”

The deposition also quotes Cole saying Humphrey had his hand on his neck for 10-15 minutes, not the 10-15 seconds he claimed on Wed.

Cole’s aunt said she was the first person to come to his house after claiming Humphrey kicked her nephew’s bedroom door in, pushed his wheelchair more than a yard, and choked him. She described her nephew as someone in a frantic state, hiding in the bathroom, with redness around his neck when she first saw him. She described where she saw markings on Cole’s neck using pictures she took after her nephew told her what happened.

The state also brought Marshall County Sheriff’s Deputy Blake Bennett to the witness stand, the first officer to respond to the reported abuse.

Bennett talked about the conversation he had with Cole after meeting him at the hospital.

He did not get a chance to talk to Humphrey in person.

The last witness was the forensic nurse who examined Cole the day after the incident and 72-hours later.

She provided expert testimony on the markings she examined on Cole’s neck. While she didn’t outright say she believed Cole’s bruises and abrasions were from someone choking him, she admitted they were consistent with what she sees when someone is strangled by hand. She also said the reduction in swelling from the first examination and the second, as well as the markings on his neck, were likely from a deep bone bruise.

Cole’s mother said she was proud of how her son handled the pressure of being on the witness stand.

“I think Cody did an outstanding job of articulating exactly what occurred three years ago. He has never wavered from all the facts and circumstances and the emotions that went along with being violated in such an aggressive way,” said Cole’s mother Tamara Awald.

Humphrey’s sister expressed more skepticism of Cole and his aunt’s testimony.

“Cody is a habitual liar. His own brother even told us that he lies when he doesn’t get his way. They’re twins. My brother worked with people with disabilities for years just like my mom. My brother would never hurt anybody,” said Humphrey’s sister Whitney Humphrey.

Humphrey faces a sentence of up to seven years.

His sentencing is scheduled for May 17th at 10:00 AM at the Marshall County Courthouse.

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