Ashley Kidwell is a 34-year-old woman who is the mother of 2 young children. Ashley had an aspiring career as a model in her youth but ended it for wanting a family. At 26 she married Bradley Kidwell, a convicted felon who spent 6 years in prison for armed kidnapping. Prior to the marriage he always treated her well and lovingly, but according to Ashley that all stopped the moment she became his property. Ashley was pregnant with their first child when the abuse began. Bradley began exerting more and more control over Ashley’s actions. He began controlling what she wore which was lingerie in the home at all times and outside she was only allowed to be fully covered. She was not allowed to speak with anyone outside of his permission, cutting her off from her family. Immediately after their son was born Bradley began to physically abuse her. Ashley covered the bruises so as not to show the trauma she was being forced to undergo. A year and a half later Ashley became pregnant with their second child. Due to the abuse, this pregnancy was not easy she suffered severe bodily trauma unknown to her. She was ordered to strict bed rest and at one point her husband was escorted out of the hospital. Their daughter was born on 05/17/2013 as a micro-preemie.
Following the birth of their daughter, Ashley flatlined due to placenta acedia and a sub koranic hemorrhage. After the birth and Ashley’s return home Bradley would not allow her to the hospital to see their daughter. She was forced to pump breast milk that her husband refused to take to the hospital for their daughter. Upon their daughter’s arrival home several aspects changed due to their daughter’s physical needs. This is when the physical abuse began to worsen, and psychological abuse became the norm. At the same time her husband began to rape and sodomize her in order to prove dominance over her.
Bradly moved them to Lugoff, South Carolina to exert his control even more. She was not allowed to venture outside or communicate with anyone, most of her neighbors didn’t even know she existed. If she did there were severe punishments for these actions. Upon their arriving in their new home and now having 2 children whom she was taking care of the abuse was even more frequent. Ashley states her husband felt neglected by her due to the children. He began to threaten her with the children in order to make her compliant to his abuse.
After getting the courage to speak with a representative from Sistercare through a hospital visit, Ashley states she knew she had to leave for the sake of her children and herself. Upon arriving back home her husband had set a trap for her. He had taken notice of her efforts to begin leaving and he had called DSS and informed them that the children were not taken care of and the home was in unlivable conditions. Portraying Ashley as an unfit mother. These allegations were all proven to be unfounded, but what happened next Bradley did not expect. DSS removed the children due to abuse they had discovered perpetrated by him upon his wife. A Safety Plan was agreed upon where Ashley was required to take abuse victim classes and Bradley was forced to take anger management classes. After several months the children were returned with the understanding that Ashley had an exit plan in place if the abuse were to return. Which it did, Ashley in fear of her children being taken again chose to accept the abuse. After a year and half Ashley finally decided it was time. She says the decision-maker was her husband’s threat of abuse on the children.
On 04/11/2020 Ashley reached out to a friend who agreed to aid her in taking her and the children to her mothers. But before this happened her husband had overheard her talking and grabbed the phone from her stating “YOU WILL NEVER LEAVE THIS HOUSE AGAIN AND you are NOT TAKING THESE KIDS OUT OF THIS HOUSE”. Her ride was outside and Ashley knew if she didn’t leave now she would not survive. She ran out of the house and drove away. Ashley knew her husband would not harm the children because he always used them to get to her, but this did not stop her from worrying or blaming herself for leaving Ashley contacted Sistercare and began the long process of hopefully ending the cycle of torture and abuse she and her children have lived under. Due to COVID-19 things did not move as quickly as normal, it was a few weeks before an Emergency Order of Protection could be filed.
At the hearing Ashley had made arrangements with South Carolina Legal Aid Attorney Melinda Taylor to be present along with a Sistercare Representative. Her husband was present with an attorney he had sought out months before to see what he had to do to prevent anything if she ever chose to leave him. This Attorney was Carrie Tanner of Speedy, Tanner and Atkinson Law Firm in Camden, South Carolina.
Ashley had called DSS only a few days prior to get them involved to help her retrieve her children from her abusive husband. While residing at her mothers’ home where she had been for months prior. However, returned to the family home for the childrens belongings.
Prior to being called into the courtroom, the DSS Agent, Carrie Tanner, and the Legal Aid attorney all had a private conference in a secured room. This lasted for nearly an hour. Upon exiting Melanie Taylor walked over to Ashley and told her if she did not agree to the proposed agreement by DSS and Carrie Tanner the children would be removed from the home and put into the foster care system. Ashley became fearful for her children and had not expected anything like this. She had done everything she was told to do to protect her children and herself. Now she ran the risk of losing them and under threat of this Ashley agreed.
Kershaw County Family Court Judge Scott Rankin ordered that the children would be exchanged week to week. Ashley could only have her children at her mother’s during her visitation time. Both were ordered to undergo drug testing and a No Contact order was issued.
It is here that we at the Daily Counter truly took note of this case. Judge Rankin heard this issue on custody that was not even filed with the Courts, and did not even entertain or mention the Emergency Order of Protection which had been filed the day before. Nor was he given an audio file that Ashley had as evidence of the threats upon their daughter. Judge Rankin also stated that Ashley’s mother could be served with documents for Ashley, this violates Procedural Due Process protections, as her mother is not a party in this issue. Ashley is being re-victimized by the system she believed would protect her and her children.
The Daily Counter took upon itself to contact Senator Katrina Shealy and inform her of this situation. Senator Shealy was shocked. Senator Shealy asked Ashley Kidwell to email her what occurred and the parties involved. Sen. Shealy stated she would get involved and help this victim as much as she could. One fact that shocked Sen. Shealy was the fact that a Judge would grant such to a convicted felon who threatened children.
Ashley had attempted to leave her abusive husband nearly 15 times mostly when she was in a hospital. She did return to her abuser repeatedly due to the mental rewiring such victims undergo by their abusers. Bradley Kidwell has learned the system very well from looking at his past dealings with law enforcement.
Another aspect of this story is that Ashely also went to the Kershaw County Sheriff’s Department seeking aid for her children and herself. In a phone conversation with Investigator Hammon, she was told that he found no probable cause for charges due to the fact of her having never followed through with other reports. This reporter reached out to Sheriff Lee Boan and informed him of this conversation and situation. Sheriff Boan stated he would get with Inv. Hammond and find out what is going on. We will be reaching out to Sheriff Boan in an update of this story.
True victims of Domestic Violence whether women or men should not be subject to re-victimization by the system. This is one of the many causes that prevent these victims from coming forth. As South Carolina maintains its spot in the top 5 states ranked for Domestic Violence, perhaps it is time for more education to agencies and their officers on this horrific crime? When 1 in 4 women are abused and 1 in 7 men, amongst all the false allegations when true victims do find the courage to come forth they should not be left in the dark.
The Daily Counter will continue to bring updates on this story and has set up a GOFUNDME account to aid Ms. Kidwell as she was left with no help and no way of support. All funds collected will go to paying for a certified attorney to aid Ms. Kidwell in seeking justice for her children and her. Please donate here GoFundMe.