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A Rapid City woman accused of pepper spraying her 11-year-old son as punishment for misbehaving has pleaded not guilty.

Ashley Ellis, 32, is charged with child abuse, simple assault (domestic abuse) and nonsupport of child by parent.

Rapid City police said Ellis admitted pepper spraying her son three times on the morning of April 1, according to court documents. The first incident allegedly happened at their home, when the boy talked back to Ellis after she scolded him and his sister for making noise while she was sleeping and for opening their Easter baskets early.

She reportedly then drove to the parking lot across from the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center, tried to leave the boy in the parking lot, but he kept trying to get back in her SUV.

Ellis said she “sprayed him again on the face to stop him from damaging her vehicle,” police officer Patrick Rose said in a report obtained from the Pennington County Courthouse.

After Ellis left, police said a man and woman saw the boy coughing and spitting in the parking lot. He complained of pain to his face and eyes. An ambulance took him to Rapid City Regional to be evaluated. He and his sister were later turned over to the Department of Social Services.

Another police officer who spoke to Ellis, Nicholas Allender, wrote that she “showed no remorse for spraying her child with pepper spray” and tried to justify her behavior by saying “she had a lot going on.”

Ellis was formally read her charges in court June 25, and is out of jail on a $750 cash bond. She is scheduled to return to court July 23 and has retained a lawyer.

Court records indicate the boy is now in his father’s custody.

Child abuse, a felony offense, is punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Simple assault (domestic abuse) and a parent’s nonsupport of a child are both misdemeanors that carry maximum jail sentences of a year.

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Contact Tiffany Tan at tiffany.tan@rapidcityjournal.com.

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Cops and Courts Reporter

Cops and courts reporter for the Rapid City Journal from February 2016 to July 2018. Contact her on Facebook or Twitter @tiffgtan.