Army Spc. Ashley Ard, 24, pleaded not guilty Tuesday afternoon after being charged with second-degree murder for allegedly leaving her newborn baby girl to die at an Eagle River park in mid-October.
On the morning of Oct. 15, a dog walker found the baby’s body wrapped in a towel under a bush in Turner Park, only one mile away from a nearby fire station. Alaska’s safe haven law, which has never been used, states that a parent will face no prosecution for surrendering an infant who is up to 21 days old at any hospital, fire station or emergency medical service provider in the state.
According to Anchorage police, Ard gave birth to the infant at her Eagle River home and left her home more than eight hours before the baby was found not breathing. Police say the infant died at the park, and as of Tuesday, autopsy results were still pending to determine if the baby was born healthy.
A Grand Jury indicted Ard indicted on Friday on the single murder charge, a day before a judge set her bail at $250,000 plus a court approved third-party custodian. At the Saturday court appearance, Ard revealed that she also has a 14-month-old daughter.
A Portsmouth, Va. native, Ard arrived in Alaska in September for her assignment with U.S. Army Alaska's 2nd Engineer Brigade at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.
Ard appeared in court in an orange jail suit and received a trial date in late January 2014, although court motions may delay the actual trial date.
At a news conference, Anchorage police say Ard would not be facing murder charges had she used the safe haven law.
"We hadn't seen something like this in Anchorage, at least, for 19 years,” said APD Detective Cindi Stanton, who investigates crimes against children.