Mother pleads guilty in infant daughter’s death

Thursday, August 24, 2017 - 15:23
  • Ashley Ard attends a hearing at Nesbett Courthouse in Anchorage on July 31, 2017. Ard pleaded guilty of manslaughter in connection with the 2013 death of her infant daughter in an Eagle River park. (Star photo by Kirsten Swann)
  • Ashley Ard attends a hearing at Nesbett Courthouse in Anchorage on July 31, 2017. Ard pleaded guilty of manslaughter in connection with the 2013 death of her infant daughter in an Eagle River park. (Star photo by Kirsten Swann)

A former Eagle River soldier charged with the 2013 death of her infant daughter has pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of manslaughter.

Ashley Ard, 28, accepted the plea deal during a brief afternoon hearing in a nearly empty Anchorage courtroom July 31. Anchorage District Court Judge Kevin Saxby scheduled a sentencing hearing for Dec. 5. Afterwards, still in handcuffs, Ard was ushered out a side door by uniformed Alaska State Trooper, and a small group of family members sitting quietly near the back of the courtroom filed out into the lobby.

The hearing marked the beginning of the end of a case that’s dragged on for nearly four years.

It began in October 2013, when a passerby discovered a tiny, cold body tucked under bushes in a neighborhood park, according to court records. Ard, stationed at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, had given birth at home in Eagle River, court records show. She left the newborn girl in the park hours later, according to police reports. The State of Alaska charged Ard with second-degree murder. Her defense attorneys claimed she suffered “mental confusion,” according to court records.

Ard fought the original charges, agreeing to the plea deal following dozens of hearings and hundreds of pages of court filings. While prosecuting and defense attorneys disagreed on the minimum presumptive sentence – either five years or three, depending on who you asked — they agreed on the maximum sentence of 20 years, and they agreed to leave the final decision in the hands of the judge.

After a few minutes of conversation between Saxby, District Attorney Clint Campion and defense attorney Rex Butler, Saxby turned to Ard to discuss the terms of her plea. She sat facing straight ahead, answering the judge’s questions quickly and quietly.

“How do you plead?” Saxby asked.

“Guilty, your honor,” Ard said.

The judge moved on to the details of her sentencing, and Ard wiped her eyes with the palm of her hand. She’ll remain in custody until her next court date, according to court officials.

Contact Star reporter Kirsten Swann at [email protected].

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