Baby left to die in park was full-term, APD says

Anchorage Daily NewsOctober 26, 2013 

The soldier accused of wrapping her newborn girl in a towel and abandoning her to die in an Eagle River park last week had carried the infant to term, the Anchorage detective who investigated the case said Saturday.

Anchorage Detective Sgt. Cindi Stanton told reporters that the soldier, Spc. Ashley Ard, knew she was pregnant when she delivered the baby Oct. 15 but police don't believe she met with a medical professional before she gave birth.

Stanton said she didn't know whether anyone in Ard's chain of command in the Army at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson knew she was pregnant, and neighbors who spoke to police during the investigation did not know she was pregnant, Stanton said.

Sometimes women don't show their pregnancy and even husbands could be surprised by a birth, Stanton said.

"I know lots of people have (been) full-term, have given birth and their own spouses didn't know," she said.

Stanton also revealed Saturday that the newborn was found by a dog that sniffed at the spot under a bush in Eagle River's Turner Park at 9:30 a.m. Oct. 15., some 8½ hours after the baby was born. The dog was leashed and did not touch the newborn but the dog owner was curious about what his dog had found and investigated, she said. They man called police from his cellphone while at the park, she said.

The newborn's umbilical cord was still attached when police found her, Stanton previously said.

Stanton said she has not seen autopsy results and couldn't say whether the child was born healthy.

Ard, charged with second-degree murder, is married. Stanton said privacy considerations prevented her from identifying the father. In court Saturday, Ard said she has a 14-month-old daughter.

Ard is from Portsmouth, Va., and enlisted in October 2009 at Fort Jackson, S.C., the Army said Friday evening. She was assigned to Fort Benning, Ga., from 2010 to 2013.

With the infant found in a city park, Anchorage Police have taken the lead in the investigation. They said Army authorities have been assisting.

The day the newborn was found, police and medics responded to an Eagle River residence for a call about a women with the injuries of someone who had given birth, and they found Ard, police said.

Ard gave birth to the girl just before 1 a.m.

Under Alaska's "safe haven" law, a person can surrender his or her infant up to 21 days after birth at many safe locations: hospitals, police stations or fire stations. The law protects the mother from criminal charges.

Anchorage Fire Department Station 11 is one mile from where the baby was found.

A grand jury indicted Ard for the murder charge Friday. The charge carries a sentence of 10 to 99 years in prison and a fine of up to $500,000.

Ard is scheduled to appear in court Tuesday for arraignment and is being held in the Anchorage jail on $250,000 bail with a requirement for a third-party custodian, police said.

Reach Benjamin Brasch at bbrasch@adn.com or 257-4349. Twitter: twitter.com/ben_brasch.

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