JEROME — A mother of three who pleaded guilty to aggravated battery has been sentenced to seven to 14 years in prison for beating her former friend with a wooden baseball bat after finding out the woman was sleeping with her estranged husband.
But Ashley Fawn Howell, 27, could avoid the prison sentence if she successfully completes a year-long retained jurisdiction program, commonly known as a Rider, the therapeutic and educational program directed by the Idaho Department of Correction.
Howell’s husband, 29-year-old Tyler Steven Howell, is also charged with felony aggravated battery and conspiracy to commit aggravated battery and is set for a hearing Nov. 28 and trial Dec. 7.
The couple was accused of conspiring to attack Darean Taxon, and prosecutors Monday argued Ashley Howell was the main player in a plot in which she convinced her estranged husband to invite Taxon to his house. When the other woman arrived, Ashley Howell hid in another room and ambushed her when Tyler left for a moment.
“She lures the victim there, she beats her over 20 times and the victim is barely able to get out of the building,” Jerome County Deputy Prosecutor Eileen McDevitt said. “She then hides from the police officer when he comes to the house, she then lies to the police officer … and she only admits involvement when confronted with all the evidence and the confession of her husband. She shows no contrition.”
Ashley and Tyler Howell were estranged at the time of the attack and had separated before the affair began with Taxon, McDevitt argued. But Ashley continued to meddle in Tyler’s life even after the couple separated and she became engaged to another man.
“This was an egregious, deliberate, plotted, planned-out, premeditated act,” McDevitt told 5th District Judge Eric Wildman. “We remain concerned … that she can somehow see (Tyler) as her property after she’d moved on and become engaged to someone else.”
Brad Calbo, a public defender in this case, painted a much different picture, calling Ashley Howell a young mother with three children and no prior criminal record who was going through a divorce when she made a huge mistake “in a blacked-out rage.” Calbo also said Tyler’s affair with Taxon began while Ashley and Tyler were still together.
But Taxon told Wildman during a victim-impact statement the affair happened after the couple split. She said Ashley Howell was her best friend and the women were “inseparable” until she told Tyler that Ashley was cheating on him.
“She moved out of the house, and that was the last time we talked,” Taxon said. “It was a month and a half after she moved out that the affair with Tyler started.”
McDevitt argued that no matter the timing of the affair, the violent bat attack required a long underlying sentence in case Howell is unsuccessful in the Rider or violates her probation.
Wildman expressed surprise that Howell, with no criminal record, would commit such a “violent, egregious” act.
“It’s a significant threshold to cross for a first offense,” the judge said after Howell told him she was “very, very sorry” and should have acted a different way.
Upon suspending the sentence in favor of the Rider, Wildman said he agreed with McDevitt for the need of a lengthy underlying prison sentence to give Howell incentive to perform well in the Rider and beyond.
“I will expect a glowing report from the retained jurisdiction program,” Wildman told Howell. “I’m also going to want to hear, when you come back, what you’ve learned through the counseling and programming. At that point we’ll talk about probation.”