New Albany News

Doctor charged in murder, rape of pregnant Pataskala woman

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Hampsted Village is a suburban neighborhood near New Albany with modest homes, tidy yards and children playing in the streets.

Police aren’t often called to the neighborhood, which is why many neighbors were surprised by the recent arrest and murder indictment of Ali Salim, 44, of 5077 Turner Close.

Salim, a doctor who works for the Knox Community Hospital in Mount Vernon was indicted Feb. 20 by a Delaware County grand jury related to the death of 23-year-old Deanna Ballman and her unborn child.

Salim was indicted on two counts of murder; one count of rape; one count of felonious assault; one count of corrupting another with drugs; one count of kidnapping two people; one count of tampering with evidence; and one count of abuse of a corpse, according to the Delaware County sheriff’s office.

Salim pleaded not guilty to the charges Feb. 21, said Kyle Rohrer, spokesman for the Delaware County prosecutor’s office.

Salim on Feb. 25 posted the required 10 percent of his $1 million bond to be freed from jail until his trial, currently scheduled May 7.

Delaware County officials said last week that Salim, a permanent U.S. resident and a Pakistani citizen, would be under house arrest and would wear a GPS-tracking cuff if he were released on bond.

Ballman was a 2007 Lakewood High School graduate who was enlisted in the United States Army National Guard. She had two children, then ages 1 and 3, and lived in Etna Township near Pataskala at the time of her death.

Her body was found in the back seat of her car Aug. 1 on Bevelhymer Road in Harlem Township in Delaware County. She was nine months pregnant and had been reported missing July 31 to the Pataskala Division of Police after telling her family she was going to answer a Craigslist ad to clean a New Albany-area home.

On Aug. 2, the Columbus Division of Police assisted the Delaware County sheriff’s office in serving a search warrant at Salim’s house, said Columbus police Sgt. Christine Nemechev.

Though Salim has a New Albany address, the portion of Hampsted Village in which he lives is in Columbus.

Jeffrey Dittmer, past president and current trustee of the Hampsted Village homeowners association, said the address issue caused some confusion at the time.

O'Brien said investigators believe that Salim injected Ballman with heroin. An autopsy showed she died of an acute heroin overdose; her family, friends and National Guard commander told prosecutors they had never seen evidence that Ballman used drugs.

Nemechev said Columbus police had been called to Salim’s home four times since 2011.

The most recent was April 18, 2012, when a burglar alarm was triggered.

In September 2011, they went to the home because a friend couldn’t reach him, and on Dec. 1, 2011, they checked on him because he didn’t show up for work, which was reported as "unusual behavior."

On Dec. 2, 2011, they went to the home for a dispute between Salim and a woman who said he did not pay her for pictures he had taken of her.

Dittmer said he did not remember any issues about Salim reported to the homeowners association.

Several neighbors who live on Turner Close and were contacted by ThisWeek declined to comment on Salim's arrest.

Two other doctors also live on Turner Close, which also caused confusion.

"We weren’t sure what to do about it," Dittmer said. "We weren't sure if we should say anything about (the other doctors) or not, or if that would make the situation worse."

Salim has a valid medical license but had not been working recently, authorities said. His medical licensure information listed his specialties as internal and emergency medicine and psychiatry.

Dispatch reporters Laura Arenschield and Randy Ludlow contributed to this story.

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