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 forced to turn to prostitution to support herself and her two young children.
Former emergency room doctor Ali Salim had faced up to 37 years in prison.
Delaware County Judge Duncan Whitney said in sentencing him that the crime was the worst he's ever seen and that it was unthinkable that as a man of medicine, Salim allowed the woman to die.
When victim Deanna Ballman disappeared in July 2012, her family initially said she had answered a housekeeping ad on Craigslist. Instead, investigators determined the 23-year-old woman had taken up prostitution when she moved back to Ohio after a divorce and with no financial means.
Ballman, 23, was nine months pregnant at the time with a girl she planned to call Mabel.
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 last week.
"That decision unknowingly but ultimately cost her and Mabel their lives," Rohrer said.
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.
But in a court filing Thursday, Salim's attorneys contended that Ballman injected herself with the heroin.
They 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, pleaded guilty to two counts of involuntary manslaughter in October. He also pleaded guilty to tampering with evidence and abuse of a corpse. He entered a type of guilty plea to a charge of rape under which he maintained his innocence but acknowledged prosecutors had enough evidence to convict him.
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.
Whitney has ordered video, audio and photographic evidence destroyed after criminal and civil cases against Salim end, agreeing with prosecutors they are obscene and depict acts that Ballman couldn't have consented to.