Whitehall-Coplay Press

Sunday, February 23, 2020
The Northampton County seal features two words — “mercy” and “justice” — in that order. The Northampton County seal features two words — “mercy” and “justice” — in that order.

Whitehall mother who left baby on bus not facing charges

Wednesday, November 6, 2019 by BERNIE O’HARE Special to The Press in Local News

DA asks instead for mental health evaluation

A Whitehall Township woman who left her infant son with a LANTA bus driver is no longer facing charges in that matter.

Ashley Leann Walters, 26, was charged with reckless endangerment after leaving her 32-day-old baby with a bus driver at the Guetter Street, Bethlehem, stop Oct. 26. But Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli has directed the charges be dismissed. Instead of a jail cell, Walters’ mental state is being evaluated at a local hospital.

When Walters left her infant in his carrier atop the fare box of a LANTA bus, she told the driver to contact police because she no longer could care for her baby. The bus driver told police she walked away in tears. Police took the child to Lehigh Valley Hospital. Aside from a dirty and soaked diaper, the boy was determined to be in good health.

Police quickly located the mother, who told them she and her son had just been with the father, whom she alleged was a drug user. She had ditched a ride with him for a LANTA bus and then became concerned he was following her. She also said although she was the baby’s mother, her sister had legal custody through a court order.

After consulting with the district attorney’s office, Walters was charged with reckless endangerment, a misdemeanor. It was determined she was facing eight warrants over mostly minor traffic matters. Unable to post 10 percent of $10,000 bail, she was jailed.

When Morganelli became aware of this matter, he asked for an assessment by pretrial services personnel. They determined she was combative, uncooperative and abusive. It was also learned at least some of what she reportedly told police is untrue. There was no court order awarding custody of her infant son to her sister.

Morganelli concluded that mental help, and not a jail cell, is what Walters needed. On Oct. 30, he directed police to withdraw the charges and instead was having Walters committed for 72 hours.

“I don’t like to punish people who may be suffering from a mental illness,” he said.

When asked by a Fox News reporter whether he was being too lenient, Morganelli said his office makes tough calls all the time and his successor can reverse him if he chooses.

“Is this the kind of case that’s in the public interest to prosecute?” he asked.

Morganelli made his announcement from a conference room inside his office, where a wall is decorated with the Northampton County seal. This is based on the seal of William Penn, the original proprietor of Pennsylvania. That seal features two words — “mercy” and “justice” — and in that order.