Ex-Ohio doctor sentencing in pregnant mom's death

ANDREW WELSH-HUGGINS AP Legal Affairs Writer Published:

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- More details were expected to emerge at a former Ohio doctor's sentencing about a pregnant mother's fatal decision to turn to prostitution to support herself and her two young children.

Defendant Ali Salim faces up to 37 years in prison when he appears in Delaware County court Friday afternoon.

When the pregnant woman, 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 after moving back to Ohio after a divorce and with no financial means.

Ballman was nine months pregnant at the time.

The real ad she responded to read: "$200 for a girl in need," an online euphemism for prostitution, assistant Delaware County prosecutor Kyle Rohrer said in a court filing last week.

Ballman died of a fatal heroin overdose, which investigators say Salim administered at his house in an upscale central Ohio neighborhood. Her body was found in the back of her car on a rural road a few miles from Salim's home.

In a court filing Thursday, Salim's attorneys contended 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.

The 44-year-old 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 bought heroin that he gave women who visited his house.

Rohrer said there is no evidence Ballman used drugs.

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 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.

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Andrew Welsh-Huggins can be reached on Twitter at https://twitter.com/awhcolumbus.

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