Mother Arrested for Allegedly Abandoning Child on Interstate

A North Dakota woman, aged 37, was apprehended this week following allegations of child abandonment. The woman, identified as Ashley Marie Johnson, is accused of leaving her 4-year-old daughter by the side of an interstate highway, dressed only in her cow-patterned onesie pajamas.

Johnson was taken into custody on Tuesday, facing charges of child abandonment and neglect, both felonies, and a misdemeanor count of reckless endangerment, as confirmed by local authorities. The case against Johnson was initiated when a passerby reported seeing a young child walking alone near the 63rd Street overpass on Interstate 29 around 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 3.

The individual who reported the incident to the Walsh County Police Department stated that they had seen a “very young child” in black and white onesie pajamas walking along the interstate. Upon questioning the child about her situation, she reportedly told the person that her mother had left her there. The child also mentioned that there was another young child in the car when her mother asked her to get out, according to reports from Fargo NBC affiliate KVLY.

Responding to the call, deputies from the Walsh County Sheriff’s Office and troopers from the North Dakota Highway Patrol arrived at the scene. They attempted to gather more information from the child about the incident. However, due to her young age, the child was unable to provide specific details about her parents’ identities.

Approximately an hour after the authorities picked up the 4-year-old girl, a relative of Johnson contacted the Grafton Police Department. The relative reported that Johnson had made a mistake by leaving her child on the side of the interstate, where she was alone for about 45 minutes. The relative also informed the police that earlier that day, Johnson and her two children had been asked to leave the house where they were staying. Johnson left with both children but returned hours later with only one of them.

Following this lead, police were able to locate Johnson. During an interview with investigators, Johnson allegedly confessed to intentionally leaving her 4-year-old daughter by the side of the interstate to ensure the safety of her other child, as reported by Fargo Fox affiliate KVRR. Johnson reportedly instructed the child to “stay in the grass away from cars” before leaving her.

On Thursday, Johnson appeared before Walsh County District Court Judge Barbara Whelan. She was ordered to undergo a psychological evaluation and risk assessment due to her recent actions. The court also mandated that Johnson seek addiction counseling. Johnson is currently detained in the Bottineau County Jail, awaiting a bond hearing.