FARMINGTON — Whether AshLee Bambrough was pushed, jumped or fell from a vehicle that was traveling 65 mph is still disputed in court.
But what is clear, according to 2nd District Judge David Hamilton, is that if Brandon Sloper, 25, hadn't held Bambrough against her will, delivered 10 to 11 "forceful" blows to her, and twisted her arm in a way that bones were broken and later required two surgeries to repair, Bambrough wound not have ended up on the pavement of state Route 193 fighting for her life.
"Mr. Sloper put everything into motion," Hamilton said. "If not for his actions, none of this would have happened."
Hamilton sentenced Sloper on Wednesday to one to 15 years at the Utah State Prison during an emotional and at times tense hearing, in addition to a six-month jail sentence to run concurrently while Sloper is in prison.
"I am ecstatic. I am so happy it turned out the way it did," Bambrough said. "I am so relieved he will be off the street now."
In 2011, Sloper was driving Bambrough, 24, then his girlfriend, to work in his truck when they got into a fight. The fight became physical, and Sloper began hitting Bambrough as they drove. He refused to let her get out of the vehicle, even after several attempts by Bambrough to leave.
Finally, on state Route 193 near Layton, Bambrough was ejected from the passenger-side door. She suffered skull fractures, brain damage, a broken hand, multiple cuts and bruises and lost a significant amount of blood. Sloper called 911 and drove back to where Bambrough was in the road, where witnesses had stopped to help her, and then kept driving back to his house.
In October, Sloper pleaded no contest to aggravated assault, a second-degree felony with a domestic violence sentencing enhancer, and unlawful detention, a class B misdemeanor. He was originally charged with two felonies, aggravated assault and aggravated kidnapping.
Before being sentenced Wednesday, Sloper addressed the court, saying he was "sorry" for what Bambrough and her family had been through. But he remained adamant that he did not push her from the vehicle.
"I do believe that I'm being punished for a different crime I didn't do," Sloper said before sentence was handed down. "I would never think about hurting AshLee intentionally."
The judge admitted the mechanics of how Bambrough ended up on the pavement were still uncertain. But all of her actions — whether she jumped or was pushed — were taken because she was trying to protect herself from being attacked.
Sloper's attorney, Glen Thomas, argued that for his client to push Bambrough out while still maintaining proper driving, he would have to be the "strongest man" with the "longest arms" and the "best driver" around.
"It didn't happen. He didn't push her out," Thomas said.
But Davis County District Attorney Troy Rawlings noted that if Sloper could deliver forceful blows and break her hand while still driving, it wasn't impossible to conceive he could push her out too.
Jon Bambrough, AshLee's father, added that it was also possible the passenger-side door was already partially open because of his daughter's previous attempts to escape when the vehicle slowed down. And because she was in and out of consciousness by that time due to the blows she endured, even a light shove could have caused her to go out the door.
Because of the way she landed on the road, Jon Bambrough said his daughter would have had to jump backward head first out of the car to suffer the type of injuries she did, something he doesn't believe happened.
Sloper said the entire incident "still kind of confuses me to this day."
AshLee Bambrough said she didn't believe his apology was sincere.
"I think that he is trying to get out of something he did wrong," she said after the hearing. "I feel like it was not from his heart. I feel like he was told to say that. I don't think it sounded sincere. I think him saying that was a way to get the blame off of him again. Nothing is ever his fault because there's always someone else to blame because he's perfect."
During her turn to address the court, Bambrough said she still suffers memory loss from her "brain being smashed back and forth in my skull." She said she suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, will never have full use of her hand again, and "still has nightmares of him hitting and yelling at me."
As she went through counseling, Bambrough said, she used to ask what she did so wrong to have been beaten as bad as she was, until she realized, "It was nothing I did, but just a part of Brandon that can't be hidden very long."
The tense, 90-minute hearing was before a packed courtroom. Most in the audience were friends and family members of Bambrough. Many, including Bambrough, wore purple as a sign of support. Some wore T-shirts with the words, "Team AshLee, Fight Like a Girl," a group Bambrough and her sister started to help raise awareness of domestic violence.
After the hearing, deputies had the parties leave separately, having Sloper's family exit the building before Bambrough's supporters were allowed to get up from their seats.
Bambrough said she plans to testify at Sloper's future parole hearings.
Sloper's case is not completely finished. Because of the dispute over whether Bambrough was pushed or if she jumped out of the vehicle, the defense and prosecution have not come to an agreement on restitution.
Thomas objected to some of the victim impact statements submitted to the court on Bambrough's behalf, noting that some of them had nothing to do with the case. He said the negative campaign against his client had "blown up," and supporters of Bambrough had "gone to great lengths to dig up dirt" on Sloper, even accusing him of things he didn't do.
"How many people can you contact to find out how trashy Brandon is?" he said sarcastically.Comment on this story
Thomas noted that one alleged witness to the incident, who was sitting in the audience Wednesday wearing a purple shirt, was never named in any of the police reports.
Another hearing is scheduled for Jan. 17 to discuss restitution.