An Army specialist accused of leaving her newborn baby to die in an Alaska park has been indicted for second degree murder.
According to the Anchorage Police Department, the body of a baby girl was found wrapped in a towel in Turner Park on October 15.
On the same day, paramedics were called to a residence in Eagle River to treat a woman with “possible injuries consistent with those of someone who might have given birth,” a police press release stated.
The woman was identified as Ashley Ard, 24, a specialist from Portsmouth, Virginia who reported to U.S. Army Alaska in late September. Police believe Ard gave birth in her home, then left the residence with the newborn around 1 a.m. on October 15 and placed her under a bush in Turner Park.
Results of an autopsy are still pending, but Sgt. Cindi Stanton of the Anchorage Police Department Crimes Against Children Unit told reporters that investigators believe the child was born alive and ultimately died in the park.
She said at a press conference Saturday that it would be up to the medical examiner to determine whether the child was “healthy,” but the grand jury had to be convinced the girl was alive for some amount of time in order to return a murder indictment.
“We hadn’t seen something like this in Anchorage for at least 19 years,” Stanton said.
Under Alaska’s Safe Surrender Act, she said Ard could have legally turned the child over to peace officers, firefighters or medical professionals after giving birth.
“She would not be facing murder charges at this point had she used the safe haven,” Stanton said.
Stanton declined to say whether Ard provided a motive for her alleged actions.
Stanton would not release any information about the child’s father, other than to say he is not believed to be involved in the crime, but she confirmed that Ard is married. She did not know if anyone in Ard’s military chain of command was aware she was pregnant.
Ard’s attorney, Rex Butler, told HLN Wednesday that there is more to the story than it appears, but he could not provide many details.
“There’s a lot going on here that is not yet for public consumption,” Butler said. “This is not the cut and dried case that people are assuming at this point.”
“You’ve got a young soldier here who really is a loving person,” he said, “so we’re going to get to the bottom of how this situation evolved. It’s fair to say it’s not a situation where somebody just tosses a child.”
Butler said he is still waiting to receive discovery material from prosecutors, so he does not know much yet about the state’s theory of the case.
“The most important thing is whether this child was alive at the time the child was in the park,” Butler said, adding that the autopsy report and the determination of time of death will be key factors that drive this case.
He said he was glad that the grand jury only indicted Ard on one count, but it is a serious charge and a second degree murder conviction could still carry a sentence of up to 99 years in prison.
“Our work is cut out for us, but the preliminary information I have looks promising in terms of formulating a defense,” Butler said.
Butler said Ard’s mother has come to Alaska to support her and “plans to stay as long as it takes.” Ard’s husband and daughter are also in the area.
“She’s holding up,” Butler said of his client. “The problem with this kind of a charge is nobody likes you. Everybody hates you.”
Ard appeared in Anchorage Superior Court Tuesday for an arraignment and entered a not guilty plea. She is being held on $250,000 bond with her next court date currently set for December 17.