WNYT.com

36 years for ex-Ohio doctor in pregnant mom death

Updated at: 12/20/2013 4:21 PM
ANDREW WELSH-HUGGINS

(AP) DELAWARE, Ohio - DELAWARE, Ohio (AP) — An ex-Ohio doctor was sentenced to 36 years in prison Friday after pleading guilty to causing the death of an expectant mom who turned to prostitution to support herself and her two young children.

Former emergency room doctor Ali Salim had faced up to 37 years in prison. He was given nearly that with a sentence of 36 years and four months; a few weeks are likely to be subtracted because of time he's already served. He previously pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter in the deaths of Deanna Ballman and her nearly full-term child, who was to be called Mabel.

As he sentenced Salim, Delaware County Judge Duncan Whitney said Ballman's character had no bearing on the case. Instead, it came down to a doctor who failed to try to revive Ballman as she suffered from a heroin overdose.

"Quite frankly, this is the worst crime this court has ever seen," Whitney said. "You were a man of medicine, sir. To allow someone to die — you obviously were aware that they were struggling respiratorily — it's unthinkable."

Ballman's mother, Lori Ballman, called Salim "a real Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" who committed a despicable crime.

"You could have stopped it. You could have resuscitated her. You could have called 911. You could have at least delivered Mabel, so we could at least have her in our lives," Ballman said, addressing Salim. "But no. No. You chose to just let them die. You watched them die."

Salim apologized while acknowledging nothing he said could ease the family's pain. He said he allowed "personal, petty interests," including sexual relationships with many women, to blind him to the consequences of his actions.

"It is very clear that my actions have caused immense harm, and I can't think of anyone else but me who must be held responsible for those actions," Salim said.

When Ballman disappeared in July 2012, her family initially said she had answered a housekeeping ad on Craigslist. Instead, investigators determined the 23-year-old had taken up prostitution when she moved back to Ohio after a divorce and with no financial means.

The ad she responded to: "$200 for a girl in need," an online euphemism for prostitution, assistant Delaware County prosecutor Kyle Rohrer said in a court filing.

Ballman died of a fatal heroin overdose, which investigators say Salim administered at his house in an upscale central Ohio neighborhood. Rohrer says there is no evidence Ballman used drugs.

Salim's attorney, Sam Shamansky, said Ballman injected herself with heroin, while Rohrer disputed that as implausible given the injection was on her left thigh and the nine months pregnant Ballman was right-handed.

Salim's attorneys acknowledged that Salim recorded himself having sex with the incapacitated woman and later moved her body. But they also said Salim met Ballman intending only to have sex, not to hurt her or her unborn child.

The defense said the court should consider Salim's previous background as a doctor in good standing with no criminal history. They argued he shouldn't receive the maximum sentence.

Salim, a former emergency room doctor, used Craigslist extensively to meet sexual partners, with many references in his ads to exchanging drugs for sex, including heroin, Rohrer said. Many of the women were young, drug-addicted prostitutes, with several alleging they were drugged against their will and others saying they were sexually assaulted, Rohrer's filing said.

Salim also wrote prescriptions for hard drugs for women with whom he had sexual relationships, and also bought heroin that he gave women who visited his house.

Salim, 44, had pleaded guilty to two counts of involuntary manslaughter.

In its filing, the defense denied the allegations that other women were drugged and sexually assaulted. Defense attorneys also submitted Craigslist postings and emails that they say show Ballman solicited sex online.

Salim told investigators that Ballman was alive when she left the house and he drove her to a nearby grocery store parking lot where he gave her directions to get home. Salim claims he then walked back to his house, according to Rohrer.

Ballman's body was found the next day in the back of her car on a rural road a few miles from Salim's house.

Investigators say video evidence shows Ballman nude and unconscious on Salim's bed, apparently suffering distress consistent with a heroin overdose, Rohrer said. She didn't leave the house alive, according to the court filing, which said Salim left to get heroin in a neighboring suburb that evening while Ballman was still in the house.

Rohrer's filing notes that Salim neglected his professional duty to help Ballman. "Without regard for mother or child, he dumped their bodies in a remote location as if he was taking out his trash," the filing said.

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Andrew Welsh-Huggins can be reached on Twitter at https://twitter.com/awhcolumbus.

(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)