Murder charges in North Pole toddler's death reveal details

Casey Grove

Murder charges filed against a North Pole woman who brought the bruised and burned body of her 18-month-old son to a Fairbanks hospital Sunday night reveal new details of the alleged crime.

Alaska State Troopers arrested Amberlynn Aubrey Swanson, 24, on Tuesday for the death of her son, Julian Swanson-Byrd. Prosecutors formally charged Swanson with first-degree murder Thursday.

Swanson's Facebook page said she was a stay-at-home mom and included dozens of pictures of her son.

Troopers said in a written statement announcing Swanson's arrest that an autopsy showed her son suffered "blunt force trauma prior to his death."

According to the charging document filed at Swanson's initial court appearance Thursday, this is what prosecutors say happened to the boy:

Swanson showed up at Fairbanks Memorial Hospital about 11 p.m. Sunday with the tiny body. At first, a doctor thought the boy had suffered a skull fracture and frostbite to his upper extremities. Swanson said he had been sick for the past week. Medical staff found the body showed signs of "decay," the charges say.

There was more to the story, Swanson told investigators.

Days earlier, on Friday, Swanson had been driving around the Fairbanks area trying to get the boy to calm down, she told them. She said she drove to a gravel pit off Nordale Road, where she fell asleep and awoke to find the passenger window rolled down and the boy lying in the snow outside the car.

Swanson claimed her son was cold but still alive at that point. She wrapped him in a blanket. The next day -- it's unclear from the charges precisely when -- the boy stopped breathing, and Swanson said she tried to resuscitate him.

According to the charges, Swanson made no attempt to get medical help and did not call 911. She told family members her son fell out of the car and froze to death. Swanson said she drove around all day Sunday with the boy's body in the back of her car. A friend convinced her to go to the hospital.

Someone at the hospital notified Fairbanks police, who called in the Alaska Bureau of Investigation, part of the troopers.

The investigators checked the gravel pit and found no footprints left by a child or any sign a child had lain down in the snow. In an autopsy, a medical examiner in Anchorage found that the boy died of head trauma and that the injuries first described as frostbite were actually burns. The medical examiner also found "extensive bruising" to his body.

Swanson is an amateur boxer who competed in local matches, according to the charges. The investigators found a propane torch in her car, the charges say.

A Fairbanks prosecutor said Swanson is being held without bail.