Ashley Ard became known as ‘the most hated woman in Alaska’ after leaving her newborn baby girl for dead in a local park, within hours of giving birth to her in the bath at home.
The 24-year-old, originally from Virginia, was charged with second-degree murder and faced up to 99 years in jail, with members of the Eagle River community calling for her to face the death penalty.
Her husband Kennard, with whom she already shared a daughter, denied all knowledge of her pregnancy, claiming he had no idea she was expecting despite having sex with her the week before she gave birth.
Throughout the complex legal case that ensued, which spanned five years and saw Ashley separate from Kennard and remarry before becoming a mother again while awaiting trial, her defense team insisted she was innocent.
Now a new four-part BBC Three documentary series, Accused: A Mother on Trial, explores what really happened on that fateful night on October 15, 2013 – and what may have caused Ashley to abandon her baby.
One expert claims it was a case of ‘pregnancy concealment’ and suggests Ashley was likely suffering from postpartum psychosis – both triggered by her allegedly abusive relationship with Kennard and her traumatic upbringing.
When Ashley, a chaplain’s assistant in the US military, fell pregnant with her second child, she and Kennard, a soldier, weren’t in a good place, according to her friends.
Dee Anne, her colleague and closest friend, told how she had reservations about their relationship from the start, after Kennard allegedly cheated on Ashley multiple times.
‘She would call me in tears because she found clear proof that he was cheating, and she’d be like, “I’m done”, then she wouldn’t be done and they’d be back together… then he’d cheat again,’ she said.
‘It was like, no one cheats this much… he didn’t even care enough to hide it. After she got pregnant, he was just so mean.
‘I would be on the phone with her, and I would hear him in the background yelling, “You’re fat, just because you’re pregnant doesn’t mean you have to eat everything in the house”.’
Ashley’s cousin Deshayla added: ‘I think she thought he was going to change but he got worse.’
Kennard was away on tour when Ashley gave birth to their daughter in 2012, a year after they got married, meaning she spent the first five months of motherhood alone. She moved back home to Virginia to be closer to her family.
Reflecting on their relationship, Ashley said she felt obliged to stay with Kennard because she wanted to keep her family together. ‘I never had my mom and dad,’ she said. ‘I want her to have both parents.’
Ashley’s mother Barbara told how her daughter’s father wasn’t there for her as a child. A number of her subsequent relationships were violent, with mental abuse and drugs involved.
‘I often wonder did that make her accept some things in her relationship because she saw what was going on, did she see me accepting and then she accepts things?’ she mused.
Ashley claimed Kennard would call her names, adding: ‘The verbal abuse, it got more intense every day. My friends told me to leave him, they always said I’d find someone else who would treat me better… but I felt so low, that I couldn’t.’
When she fell pregnant for a second time, Kennard was serving in Afghanistan; the baby wasn’t his. Ashley confessed to Dee Anne that she’d met up with male friend from her past, and now needed to get an abortion.
Believing she’d gone through with the termination, Dee Anne was stunned when she heard what had happened – but struggled to believe her friend was capable of murder.
A few months after he returned from Afghanistan, Kennard was posted to a military base in Alaska. Despite being pregnant by another man and the alleged abuse, Ashley chose to go with him.
Ashley claimed Kennard had changed ‘a lot’ when he returned from Afghanistan and she suspected he was battling PTSD.
‘He was angry, short-tempered, things would drop and make loud noises, he would jump,’ she said. ‘He would get upset because he couldn’t remember where things were in the house, light flashing triggered him. Just he wasn’t the same person.’
Admitting she was frightened of him, she went on: ‘He slept with a gun on the bed. I remember laying in bed one day and he’d came in, I was watching TV, and he had made this comment and said, “If you ever get pregnant by somebody else, I’ll kill you”.’
Kennard’s aunt Kim described his and Ashley’s relationship as a ‘perfect storm of dysfunctional behaviour’ that had been going on since he was in Afghanistan.
Kennard admitted to slapping Ashley once, but insisted she was violent towards him.
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SOURCE: Daily Mail, Hayley Richardson