Johnson City man arrested after abandoning his two children at the scene of a car wreck

By Abby Morris
Star Staff
amorris@starhq.com

   A Johnson City man was arrested Monday morning and charged with child neglect after abandoning his two children when the vehicle all three were riding in was involved in an accident.
   Christopher Lee Ashley, 27, 1 Mel Circle, Apt. 7, Johnson City, was charged with two counts of felony child neglect after he fled the scene of an accident where he left his children at 7 a.m. and after a second accident on the same road.
   Carter County Sheriff's Department Sgt. Keith Range received a phone call from a neighbor in reference to a vehicle that ran off the roadway on Whaleytown Road off U.S Highway 321 in the Fish Springs community, according to reports. Range stated that two adult males were with the vehicle upon his arrival as well as two small children -- a six-year-old girl and a three-year-old boy. The second adult male was not identified by officers.
   Range states in his report that he went to the vehicle and observed the children in the back seat and they "appeared very distraught and very cold."
   Ashley appeared to be disoriented and under the influence of some type of intoxicant, Range states in his report.
   At that time, Range took the children into his home which was located nearby in order to allow his wife to care for them "because it appeared that the male was unable to care for his children," according to the report by Range.
   When Range returned from his residence to the scene of the accident, both the vehicle and Ashley were gone, as well as the other adult male.
   While conducting an investigation into the accident and subsequent flight of Ashley and the other male, the vehicle, a 1981 Toyota station wagon, was located a short distance away on Whaleytown Road. This time, the vehicle had struck a utility pole causing extensive front end damage. However, neither Ashley nor the other male were with the vehicle.
   Range returned to speak with the children to see if either one could tell him where they had been going. "The children advised that their father's name was Christopher Ashley and they were in a car wreck and they did not know where their father was," Range states in his report.
   During an investigation into the location of Ashley, officers received information that he was at a residence not far from the scene of the accident and they located him at that residence. At that time, he was taken into custody and charged with two counts of felony child neglect for leaving his children at the scene.
   Range stated that further charges are pending in the investigation due to the fact that officers have been unable to determine whether Ashley or the unidentified male was driving the vehicle at the time of the accidents.
   No one was hurt in either accident.
   The Department of Children's Services was contacted in the matter and they released the children to the custody of their mother.
   Child neglect is defined in the Tennessee Code Annotated as occurring when "Any person who knowingly, other than by accidental means, treats a child under eighteen (18) years of age in such a manner as to inflict injury or neglects such a child so as to adversely affect the child's health and welfare commits a Class A misdemeanor; provided, however, that if the abused or neglected child is six (6) years of age or less, the penalty is a Class D felony."