13 years later, Debelbot saga ends with dismissal of child murder charges in Columbus court

Crime

COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) – After spending years in prison convicted of killing their infant child, a military couple walked out of a Columbus courtroom Tuesday afternoon, all charges dismissed.
Ashley and Albert Debelbot were convicted in Superior Court in 2009 of killing their daughter, McKenzy.

WRBL News 3 broke the story of the decision to drop the charges.

Early last year, the Georgia Supreme Court overturned the convictions on grounds they were denied their Sixth Amendment right to effective assistance of counsel during their trial.

They have been out on bond waiting a decision from the Muscogee County District Attorney’s Office on whether the case would be re-tried.

District Attorney Mark Jones, who inherited the case from his predecessor made the decision last month not to try the Debelbots a second time.

“I am not saying they are innocent, but there is reasonable doubt,” Jones told News 3 when he said he would not take the case to trial.

Tuesday’s hearing in front of Superior Court Judge Art Smith was the final step top the Debelbots’ freedom.

At issue was expert defense witnesses were prepared to testify that the child suffered from a birth defect and was not harmed by the parents. Those witnesses were never called.

In court, Jones said there was “mounting medical evidence that says the child was born this way” and he apologized to the Debelbots “on behalf of Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit for not getting a fair trial.”

The child was born in late May 2008 at Martin Army Hospital on Fort Benning. Not long after she was home at their apartment on Buena Vista Road in Columbus, a bump was discovered on her forehead. She taken back to Martin Army Hospital, where she died June 1, 2008.

The couple was convicted on murder charges and sentenced to life in prison.

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