Monday, March 30, 2015
Bristol Township woman accused of faking cancer during child abuse investigation
Posted: Wednesday, March 25, 2015
A 26-year-old Bristol Township woman is accused of faking ovarian cancer after police began a child abuse investigation last year when her 11-month-old daughter was brought to a hospital with injuries that included two skull fractures and a broken jaw.
Bristol Township police say Ashley Reichard went so far as to shave her head and eyebrows to support her claim that she was in treatment last year for stage 2 ovarian cancer, according to a probable cause affidavit.
After an extensive investigation that started in July and included bringing the case before a Bucks County grand jury for review, authorities concluded that Reichard abused her daughter, then lied repeatedly to investigators.
Reichard consistently misled and lied in an attempt to “gain sympathy for herself while falsely accusing another of causing inflicted trauma to her daughter,” according to court documents filed Wednesday.
She was arraigned Wednesday before District Judge Robert Wagner Jr. in Bristol Township on charges of aggravated assault on a child under 13, endangering the welfare of children, perjury and related offenses. She was sent to Bucks County prison in lieu of 10 percent of $500,000 bail.
Bristol Township police began the investigation July 11 after the baby’s grandmother contacted them to report suspected child abuse and told police the baby was being taken to The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
At the hospital, lead investigator Detective Greg Beidler spoke with a Bucks County Children and Youth Social Services case worker who told police the infant had injuries consistent with abuse, including the skull fractures, a broken jaw, broken thigh bone, perforated ear drum, corneal abrasion in one eye, burns on her hips and multiple bruises on her face and abdomen.
A CHOP doctor concluded that only physical abuse would explain the multiplicity and severity of all the injuries, according to a probable cause affidavit.
When police first interviewed Reichard at CHOP, she claimed her daughter’s father had custody of her from the evening of July 3 until the evening of July 6, according to court documents. Reichard claimed that she and her daughter’s father have an informal custody arrangement.
Reichard told police her daughter was not acting like herself after she picked her up from the visit. Reichard claimed the baby was “crying in a weird way,” and had bruising on her face and abdomen and seemed unable to open her mouth, the affidavit said. Reichard also has a 4-year-old son, police said.
While Reichard noticed the apparent injuries, she didn’t seek any medical attention or report her concerns, court documents allege.
Instead, the next day, Reichard claimed she took her daughter to the park where she pushed her on the swing and took her down the slide. She claimed her daughter ate watermelon and a couple of hotdogs that were cut into small pieces, court papers allege.
Over the next few days, though, Reichard claimed her daughter developed other strange symptoms, including a bloody nose and fever, and bleeding from an ear. But Reichard still didn’t seek medical attention for her, police said.
Reichard claimed she called her pediatrician’s office on July 9, but the office never called back. The next day she called the doctor again, and again, no one called her back, she claimed.
But phone records obtained by investigators confirmed that Reichard never called her pediatrician’s office on July 9 and, while she did call on July 10, the office returned her call a half hour after she left the message and the call went unanswered, the affidavit said.
On Friday, July 11, the pediatrician’s office called Reichard and made an appointment for the baby to be examined later that day. At this point, police say, the infant’s physical condition had deteriorated to the point where, as Reichard described it, she was “out of it.”
Reichard told police that when she put her daughter in the car seat to take her to the pediatrician’s office, she noticed blisters on the baby’s hips for the first time, the affidavit said. A CHOP doctor later concluded the blisters — likely the result of cigarette burns — had occurred within the previous three days, police said.
After the baby was examined by the pediatrician, Reichard was told to take the child to CHOP for a physical to rule out abuse, police said.
As the investigation continued, Beidler interviewed Reichard’s mother, Lynn Slezak, in September. She told police that she didn’t see her granddaughter over the July Fourth weekend, but spent time with her on July 7. She described the baby as happy, smiling and excited, though she was a little “clingy” during the visit, the affidavit said.
Slezak claimed that she next saw her granddaughter two days later and she appeared happy and content, court documents said. But while changing her diaper, she noticed what appeared to be two thumbprints on the baby’s stomach, though she didn’t see any other bruises or burns, police said.
When she next saw the baby — July 10 — Slezak claimed she noticed the baby was acting “very fussy and whinny” and Reichard pointed out dried blood in the baby’s ear, police said.
The CHOP doctor who treated the baby later confirmed that the injuries were so severe there is no way the baby could have developed a tolerance to the abuse and that she would have felt “every little bit of pain” from her injuries.
In January, Beidler visited Reichard to serve her with legal papers and learned from her stepfather she had been diagnosed with stage 2 ovarian cancer, police said. At the time, Reichard was completely bald and had no eyebrows, according to the affidavit.
Reichard confirmed to Beidler that she was receiving chemotherapy at Fox Chase Cancer Center and Jeanes Hospital in Philadelphia for the disease, police said. She also told county social workers and court officials during custody hearings involving her daughter that she was receiving cancer treatment.
She provided her probation officer with a letter from Fox Chase in December purporting that she was under the care of the hospital’s oncology department since November for stage 2 ovarian cancer, court documents said. But the letter contained typos, it was not printed on hospital letterhead and contained “illegible signatures” purportedly of the “oncology team @ Fox Chase Cancer Center” but there were no printed names or signers, police said.
“The letter is clearly a forged document and was submitted as an explanation for failed attempts to schedule her probation appointments and visits by her PO (probation officer),” the affidavit said.
After police obtained a subpoena for medical records in February, Fox Chase and Jeanes Hospital confirmed that Reichard was never a patient, police said.
When confronted with the information, though, Reichard insisted that she is a patient at both hospitals; as of Wednesday she had failed to produce medical records supporting her claims to be undergoing treatment for cancer, police said.
In addition to allegedly lying about a cancer diagnosis, Reichard admitted that she lied twice to police about where she was living when her daughter was injured, the affidavit said.
The baby’s father was ruled out as responsible for the baby’s injuries based on the medical assessment of the injuries and Slezak’s statement to police, court documents said.
“According to the defendant and, as corroborated by others, she was the only caregiver of (the baby) during the time these injuries could have occurred,” the affidavit said.