UPDATE: Army Spc. Ashley Ard of Virginia was married and gave birth to a newborn girl without seeing a medical professional, Anchorage police said Saturday. Ard abandoned the baby while it was still alive in a park just north of Alaska's largest city, where it was found by a dogwalker on Oct. 15. A grand jury in Anchorage on Friday indicted Ard for murder 10 days after she allegedly left the newborn at Turner Park in Eagle River.
The baby girl was dead when they arrived at the park, Anchorage police said at the time she was discovered.
At a press conference on Saturday, Sgt. Detective Cindi Stanton of the Anchorage Police Department said the Army chose to allow local police to investigate and charge Ard, who faces a single count of second-degree murder. If convicted, the young woman faces up to 99 years in prison and a half-million dollar fine. Anchorage police arrested Ard early Friday evening.
Ard's pregnancy had reached its full term, Stanton said, but her chain of command in the U.S. Army of Alaska may not have known she was pregnant. The Army is cooperating with APD in the investigation.
Ard is from Portsmouth, Va. She is a specialist in the U.S. Army and reported to Alaska in late September. Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska's largest city sent out a press release late Friday acknowledging the solder's arrest. The Army further said it is fully cooperating with the Anchorage Police Department.
On Oct. 15, police received a call from someone walking through Turner Park in Eagle River -- a suburban community 15 minutes north of Anchorage -- who reported a newborn baby wrapped in a towel who wasn't breathing.
Police went to the park, accompanied by crime scene detectives to investigate the abandoned infant. Later that afternoon, Anchorage Fire Department medics informed the police that they were helping a female in Eagle River who had injuries consistent with someone who had given birth.
Detectives interviewed the woman, only identified as Ard when the grand jury handed down its indictment, and determined she was the mother of the baby. Ard gave birth to the girl at her home in Eagle River then left with the newborn just before 1 in the morning on Oct. 15. She reportedly went to Turner Park and left the baby under a bush, wrapped in a towel.
The baby was sent to the state Medical Examiner's Office for an autopsy, the results of which are still pending.
Abandoned babies are less common now than in the past due at least in part to Alaska's Safe Haven law, said Sgt. Cindi Stanton in a previous interview. The law allows mothers to drop off newborns up to 21 days old with police officers, firefighters or emergency medical technicians and at hospitals and fire or police stations without fear of prosecution.