Man pleads guilty to murder in strangling of his ailing mother

Posted: March 24, 2012

A Juniata Park man - charged with strangling his ailing 81-year-old mother last March - pleaded guilty Friday to third-degree murder before a Philadelphia judge.

James Ashby, 58, pleaded guilty before Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Glenn B. Bronson in an agreement in which the District Attorney's Office agreed to drop the first-degree murder charge against him.

In Pennsylvania, first-degree murder carries a mandatory life prison term without chance of parole; third-degree murder carries a penalty of 20 to 40 years in prison.

Bronson set sentencing for June 1 and ordered a psychiatric evaluation for Ashby.

Defense attorney Helen Levin declined to comment until sentencing.

According to Assistant District Attorney Brendan O'Malley, Ashby lived in the house in the 4200 block of Malta Street with his mother, Margaret Ashby, and sister Janet Ashby.

At 1:30 a.m., Ashby went into his mother's bedroom, tried to smother her with a pillow, and then strangled her, O'Malley said.

O'Malley said Janet Ashby confronted her brother, and he told her: "I killed her, I strangled her, it's over. Call 911."

James Ashby later gave a statement to detectives admitting he strangled his mother. O'Malley declined to comment on the motive or background of the killing until sentencing.


Contact Joseph A. Slobodzian at 215-854-2985 or jslobodzian@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @joeslobo.

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