Ashley Ard (‘most hated woman in Alaska’) Wiki – Ashley Ard Biography
Ashley Ard became known as ‘Alaska’s most hated woman’ after she left her newborn to die at a local park within hours of giving birth to her home in the bathroom.
The 24-year-old, originally from Virginia, was charged with second-degree murder, and members of the Eagle River community were sentenced to up to 99 years in prison, calling for her to be sentenced to death.
Her husband, Kennard, with whom she shared a daughter before, denied all information about her pregnancy, claiming that she had sex with her the week before she gave birth but was unaware that she was expecting.
Throughout the complex legal case spanning five years that saw Ashley leave Kennard and remarry before becoming a mother again, while awaiting trial, the defense team insisted she was innocent.
Now a new four-part BBC Three documentary series, Guilty: A Mother at Trial, explores what actually happened that fateful night on October 15, 2013 and what caused Ashley to leave her baby.
One expert claims this is a case of ‘pregnancy secrecy’ and suggests that Ashley probably suffers from postpartum psychosis – both due to the alleged abusive relationship with Kennard and her traumatic upbringing.
When Ashley, an assistant to a pastor in the U.S. military, became pregnant with her second child, she and Kennard, a soldier, were not in a good place to their friends.
Her colleague and best friend Dee Anne recounted how Kennard had reservations about their relationship from the very beginning, after allegedly cheating Ashley over and over.
‘He would call me in tears because he found clear evidence that he was cheating and said, “I’m done”, then it wouldn’t be over and they would get back together … then he said I would cheat again.
As if no one was cheating that much … didn’t even care enough to hide it. It was very rude after she got pregnant.
“I would talk to him on the phone and hear him shout in the background,” You’re fat, just because you’re pregnant doesn’t mean you have to eat everything in the house. ”
Deshayla, Ashley’s cousin, said, “I think she thought it would change, but it just got worse.”
Kennard was on tour when Ashley gave birth to her daughter in 2012, a year after her marriage, meaning she spent the first five months of motherhood alone. He returned to Virginia to be closer to his family.
Considering their relationship, Ashley said she felt obliged to stay with Kennard as she wanted to keep her family together. “My mom and dad never happened,” he said. I want both parents.
Ashley’s mother, Barbara, said that her daughter’s father was not with him when he was a child. Their later relationship was violent, along with mental abuse and drugs.
“I often wonder why this has caused him to accept certain things in his relationship because he saw what was happening, did he see what I accepted, and then accepted things?” he thought.
Claiming that Kennard would name their names, Ashley added: ‘Verbal abuse has become more intense with each passing day. My friends told me to leave him, they always said I would find someone else to treat me better … but I felt so bad that I couldn’t. ‘
Kennard was serving in Afghanistan when she became pregnant for the second time; the baby was not hers. Ashley confessed to Dee Anne that she had met a boyfriend from her past and now needs to have an abortion.
Believing she was going through the termination, Dee Anne was stunned when she heard what had happened – but found it hard to believe that her friend could commit murder.
Several months after returning from Afghanistan, Kennard was sent to a military base in Alaska. Ashley chose to go with her, despite being pregnant with another man and alleged abuse.
Ashley claimed that Kennard changed “a lot” when she returned from Afghanistan and suspected that she was battling PTSD.
“He was angry, he was getting angry quickly, things were falling and he was making loud noises, jumping,” he said. She was upset that she could not remember where she was in the house, the flash of light triggered her. It just wasn’t the same person.
Confessing that he was afraid of him, he continued: “ He slept in the bed with a gun. I remember lying in bed one day and he came in, I was watching TV and he made this comment and said, “If you get pregnant with someone else, I will kill you. ‘
Kennard’s aunt Kim described her and Ashley’s relationship as a ‘perfect storm of dysfunctional behavior’ that has been going on since Afghanistan.
Kennard admitted that he once slapped Ashley, but said he used violence against her.
‘She used to grab on me, punch on me, I wouldn’t hit her back because that’s not me, a man striking a woman, until one night, I was minding my own business, having a drink, she comes outside, got in argument about something and she slapped me,’ he said. ‘It was a reflex, I slapped her back. We both agreed, stop with the foolishness, we’ve got to move on.’
Kennard told police and documentary makers he had no idea his wife was pregnant, claiming she ‘hid it very well’. He even told police he had sex with his wife every week during her pregnancy, and when he questioned her weight gain she told him it was due to fibroids.
Ashley gave birth at home late at night, while Kennard was picking up his aunt and uncle from Anchorage airport. Images of the apartment were reminiscent of a horror film, with pools of blood on the bed, bathroom floor and smeared across the wall.
The normal amount of blood loss during childbirth is one pint. According to medical experts, Ashley lost five times that – over half the blood in her body. She was treated in hospital, where she was interviewed for two hours by police officers after a member of the public found her baby in the park.
In extracts from the interview aired during the documentary, she denies giving birth and abandoning the child, while hospital staff expressed concern for her welfare.
Barbara Norton, an expert on childbirth and pregnancy at the Geneva Woods birth centre, suggested women who give birth rapidly, as Ashley appears to have done, were at risk of all kinds of complications, with excessive bleeding very common.
‘Anyone who loses twice the normal blood, that’s a haemorrhage,’ she explained.
‘Generally people are dizzy, they can’t sit up in bed without their ears ringing, they start sweating, they get winded on the way to the bathroom, they’re very symptomatic.’
Asked if the person would not be in a good state of mind, she replied: ‘Yes, absolutely.’
NHS guidelines define pregnancy concealment as when a woman knows she is pregnant but does not tell anyone, or when a woman appears genuinely unaware she is
Concealment may be an active act or a form of denial.
Reasons for pregnancy concealment can include fear of disapproval, mental illness and domestic abuse in a relationship.
Various studies suggest it might occur in approximately one in 2,500 cases, or 0.04 per cent.
Dr Diana Lynn Barnes, an expert in pregnancy denial cases who has conducted decades of research into infant homicide, argued Ashley’s case is ‘clearly’ one of pregnancy concealment ‘triggered’ by Kennard’s alleged comment he would kill her if she got pregnant by somebody else.
‘One thing we know in concealment and denial is women usually have a background of trauma,’ she explained, citing Barbara’s violent relationships during her upbringing.
‘One of the things [Barbara] told me was when Ashley was witness to the fighting, there were times when Ashley wanted to jump off the balcony of the apartment.
‘Clearly it was very stressful and distressing for Ashley.’
She added: ‘When a pregnancy disappears from conscious awareness, the things that we are looking at is, what is happening in her immediate circle that would make her frightened of talking about her pregnancy, that would signal to the mind that I can’t think about this or it needs to go away.
‘Most of the time what we see is threats of abandonment or harm… that is the trigger that sends that pregnancy out of conscious awareness.
‘If she was experiencing a pregnancy denial, we’re talking about a woman who is in the midst of extreme terror.’
Dr Barnes noted the way Ashley gave birth was distinctive of someone suffering from pregnancy concealment, and concludes, in her opinion, she shouldn’t be punished for ‘being sick’.
‘They give birth in the bathroom, in the shower, in the toilet, they misconstrue their labour pains as an intestinal disturbance,’ she explained.
‘They give birth in what we call a dissociative state. In very many cases, vision becomes blurry, hearing becomes altered, some women talk about feeling as if they’re in a tunnel where they can’t hear.
‘Some women talk about the sense of time being very distorted and watching themselves, watching the action and not being able to intervene.’
Dr Barnes added that, given Ashley’s history of violence, she may have been at higher risk of suffering postpartum psychosis – highlighting that the condition can result in a woman taking the life of her child because, in her delusional psychotic mind, she actually believes that is in their best interest.
‘Looking at her risk factors, trauma, detachment and disassociation it is absolutely possible it’s the case in Ashley’s situation,’ she deduced.
Ashley’s attorney Rex Lamont-Butler is convinced she is not guilty of murder, and brands it ‘crazy’ that Kennard was having regular sex with her and didn’t know she was pregnant.
He also called it ‘odd’ that Ashley’s car, which she allegedly used to drive the baby to the park after giving birth, didn’t contain a single speck of blood on the driver’s seat.
‘People say hang the b****, we wish the death penalty was at our disposal,’ he said. ‘They don’t know Ashley, they have no idea who Ashley Ard is.’
While awaiting trial and on bail, Ashley meets Byron, from Ohio, and within five months the couple are married with a baby on the way – though Ashley only told him about her past after their wedding.
Ashley’s trial was delayed until after she gave birth to a baby girl. In the meantime the prosecution argued Ashley’s testimony was unreliable and sought further psychological reports, which disputed Dr Barnes’ theory.
With the odds stacked against her, and the State offered to reduce her crime to aggravated manslaughter if she pleaded guilty – which would mean an instant return to prison and a maximum sentence of 20 years.
With a newborn baby and a marriage still very much in its honeymoon period, Ashley is faced with an impossible decision.
Accused: A Mother On Trial is available to watch now on the BBC iPlayer.