Ohio psychiatrist takes plea deal to avoid trial in pregnant woman's death
November 10, 2013
DELAWARE, Ohio — The doctor charged with raping and killing a pregnant Pataskala woman who answered his Craigslist ad said nothing about the night she died yesterday while admitting to causing her death and the death of her unborn child.
Dr. Ali Salim, 44, said only that he “took issue” with the charge that he had raped the woman, but he conceded that prosecutors had enough evidence to convict him of doing so.
Salim, on house arrest since being charged with kidnapping, raping and murdering 23-year-old Deanna Ballman and with murdering her unborn daughter, pleaded guilty to reduced charges of involuntary manslaughter. He also pleaded guilty to tampering with evidence and abusing Ballman’s corpse. He entered an Alford plea to the rape charge, which allows him to maintain his innocence while acknowledging that he likely would be convicted if the case went to trial. It carries the same weight as a guilty plea.
Prosecutors dropped charges that Salim kidnapped and drugged Ballman and feloniously assaulted her baby. They also dropped one count of tampering with evidence.
As Salim acknowledged his guilty pleas to each charge, Ballman’s mother and sister sat in the courtroom, brushing away tears.
Ballman’s family asked that reporters respect their privacy, and said they planned to testify at Salim’s sentencing hearing, scheduled for Dec. 10. He faces up to 37 years in prison.
Prosecutors said they did not know what sentence they would seek.
“Nothing we can ever do in the legal system can compensate the Ballman family for the loss of their daughter and their granddaughter,” said Kyle
Rohrer, assistant Delaware County prosecutor. “This gives a certainty of the outcome of the case.”
Ballman’s body was found in her car along a rural road in the southeastern part of Delaware County on Aug. 1, 2012, a day after she told her mother she was answering a Craigslist ad to clean a house. She was nine months pregnant at the time and planned to name her daughter Mabel.
The case had been scheduled to go to trial next week.
Rohrer said evidence would have shown that Salim met Ballman at a Kroger grocery in New Albany and took her back to his home on Turner Close, on Columbus’ Northeast Side.
Rohrer said Salim gave Ballman heroin, and that there was evidence to suggest that he had injected it into her leg.
An autopsy showed that she died of a heroin overdose. It was unclear whether Ballman used the heroin willingly or whether Salim forced her to be injected.
Ballman began feeling ill and called her mother, Lori Ballman, Rohrer said. Deanna Ballman had left her two young children, then 1 and 3, with her mother when she went to answer the ad. Other than Salim, Lori Ballman was the last person to talk with Deanna.
Salim eventually put Ballman’s body in the back of her car, drove it to a field and left it there.
Salim, who will remain on house arrest until his sentencing, declined to comment after changing his plea yesterday.
His attorney, Sam Shamansky, said that as the case evolved, a plea deal seemed like a good idea.
“We believe that this agreement is in the best interest of everyone,” Shamansky said.
Rohrer said he was satisfied with the plea agreement. “He took responsibility for everything he did,” Rohrer said of Salim.
Salim, who until his arrest was an emergency-department psychiatrist at Knox Community Hospital in Mount Vernon, is not a U.S. citizen and could be deported to Pakistan after he is released from prison, Delaware Common Pleas Judge W. Duncan Whitney said. He also will be required to register as a sex offender.
The State Medical Board suspended his medical license in April.
Ballman’s family has sued Salim, the hospital and Craigslist, saying all were negligent.
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