COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - A Fort Benning couple convicted of killing their newborn baby walked out of a Columbus courtroom Tuesday free to live their lives. Six months ago they were released on bond after spending almost 13 years in a Georgia prison.
Albert and Ashley Debelbot were a military family when they arrived at Fort Benning in March of 2008. Soon after they had a little girl, McKenzy, who died almost two days later from a head injury and in turn, turned the Debelbot’s lives upside down.
A 13-year saga came to an end when Muscogee County Superior Court Judge Art Smith accepted the district attorney’s motion to dismiss murder and child cruelty charges against Ashley and Albert Debelbot. District Attorney Mark Jones also issued an apology to the couple.
“I thought I would never hear that being said to me ever,” said Ashley Debelbot. “I don’t hold any bitterness toward anybody, I’m just happy that now, me and my husband can now properly grieve for the daughter we lost.”
“My freedom, I did not loose to begin with, so why is he giving it back to me and apologizing,” said Albert Debelbot. “It should have never been taken from the beginning. We lost 12 years of being apart. Let’s ask the better question. What is the state going to do for us?”
Jones dropped the charges against the former military couple citing a lack of sufficient evidence in the case and medical evidence that suggests their newborn daughter, Mckenzy, had a brain defect that likely caused her death despite her parents taking her to Martin Army Hospital for a bump on her head.
Tuesday’s decision came on the heels of a ruling by the Georgia Supreme Court in 2020, overturning the Debelbot’s convictions, on the grounds, they were denied their sixth amendment right to effective counsel.
According to the couple, they plan to stick around the Fountain City for now, and be a voice for those wrongfully convicted.