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Baby Boy found dead

MSNBC-TV's Rita Cosby brings you the story of a woman fighting to keep her scholarship at USC and how a baby may impact the case.
/ Source:

The tragic death of a newborn baby boy has led investigators to charge a USC student, Holly Askcraft, with the child's murder. 

The student's attorney suggests that the baby was stillborn, and therefore, no crime was committed.  Although the autopsy is not finished, authorities are treating this case as if the child was indeed born alive.

Rita Cosby talked with the LAPD as well as the Ashcraft's attorney to report on both sides of the story.

RITA COSBY, HOST, 'LIVE & DIRECT:  University of Southern California  student Holly Ashcraft has been charged with the abandonment and death of her newborn. 

And get this:  If it‘s true, it would not be the first time.  Ashcraft reportedly told authorities that she disposed of another child, a stillborn baby, last year. 

Joining me is Ashcraft attorney Paul Wallin.  Also Captain Anita Ortega with the Los Angeles Police Department‘s juvenile division.

Let me start with you, Captain Ortega.  Tell us about this case.  And how did they link the baby found in the dumpster to the student?

CAPT. ANITA ORTEGA, LAPD JUVENILE DIVISION:  Well, the prior case in 2004 was investigated by my investigators.  However, there was no arrest, and there was no filing by the district attorney.  So I really have no further on that particular case. 

COSBY:  Yes, I‘m talking about this case, Captain.  In this particular case, tell us about what happened in this case? 

ORTEGA:  Well, in this case, on Monday night, which was October 10th, we received a radio call of a child that had been abandoned and found dead near 29th and Hoover, which is very, very close to the University of Southern California.  When officers responded, in fact, there was a dead child.  And we conducted our investigation from that point on. 

COSBY:  How did you link it to Holly Ashcraft?  How did you link the baby, this, you know, random baby found?

ORTEGA:  Yes, you know, it was the relentless and diligent work of the detectives.  They canvassed the area.  They talked to everyone in the area.  Holly lived very close to the trash area.  So we were able to locate her in a very short period of time. 

COSBY:  And what do we know, Captain, about the father? 

ORTEGA:  We don‘t know anything about the father at this point, nothing at all. 

COSBY:  Did anybody know that Holly was pregnant? 

ORTEGA:  From what my indications and my sources tell me, no one had an idea that she was pregnant, and that includes the owner of the 29 Restaurant, which is right below her residence. 

COSBY:  So she was not even telling anyone she was pregnant?  How far along was the pregnancy?

ORTEGA:  This was a full-term baby, a full-term baby boy. 

COSBY:  Wow.  How serious is this now, in terms of charges?  What is she facing?

ORTEGA:  Well, unfortunately, she‘s facing some very serious charges.  The D.A. filed two counts, one count of the crime of murder, the second count of child abuse.  She‘s presently incarcerated.  She has a $2 million bail.  And her arraignment date will be on November 9th

COSBY:  Well, let‘s turn to Paul Wallin, who is Ashcraft‘s attorney.  You know, Mr. Wallin, I understand that at least one of your colleagues saw her.  How is she doing?  And what is she saying about what happened? 

PAUL WALLIN, HOLLY ASHCROFT‘S ATTORNEY:  Well, first of all, this is probably one of the most tragic things that can ever happen in anyone‘s life.  And it‘s a horrifying time.  And everyone should be feeling extremely sorry for the entire circumstance.

And what‘s very unfortunate is that this 21-year-old student, who has never had a traffic ticket in her life, is in jail in an isolated jail cell on $2 million bail when a murderer, a murderer on the street, who we know killed someone with a gun, wouldn‘t have bail at this level. 

That‘s what‘s just shocking to me, that my client, who is obviously going through an unbelievable tragic time, no matter what the facts are, a mother here has lost a child.  Under whatever circumstances, that‘s what we can‘t lose sight of. 

COSBY:  But does she realize, Mr. Wallin—I got to interrupt you...

WALLIN:  A mother has lost her child.

COSBY:  ... because this is a girl who clearly, as we know, has a track record.  I know in the other case it was investigated.  Charges were not filed.  But now, you know, it seems a little coincidental. 

WALLIN:  I know, but what...

COSBY:  I mean, are they looking at that? 

WALLIN:  What‘s interesting is—what‘s scary is that programs like yours cause this exact problem in our society. 

You don‘t know anything.  You don‘t know any facts other than that little blurb given you by the police officer.  But you don‘t know anything about a track record.  You don‘t know anything about a stillborn.

And the facts of this case are not what‘s at issue here.  What‘s at issue here right now is that this woman is sitting in jail on $2 million bail, which is unbelievably excessive, and she‘s never even been arrested for a traffic ticket before. 

It‘s a tragedy.  This is a tragedy.  If a child were born stillborn, as the facts may evidence, then there‘s not even a crime.  And she‘s sitting in jail on $2 million bail.  That‘s the crime.

COSBY:  I‘m going to interrupt you again.  But I do agree with you.  The bail is very, very high.  But the prosecutors are saying that the baby was born alive. 

WALLIN:  But the prosecutors will admit...

COSBY:  And that‘s the issue that they‘re taking with. 

WALLIN:  But the prosecutors will admit—let me tell you.

COSBY:  But that‘s the issue that they‘re taking, sir.  There‘s obviously two sides to the story.

WALLIN:  But that isn‘t even true.  That‘s what I mean.  That isn‘t even true. 

The prosecutors admit—and it was in the “L.A. Times”—that no one will know for six weeks until the autopsy comes back as to whether the child was living or dead. 

And it is our intention, obviously, that it was not living.  And if it was not living, then my client is not guilty of a traffic ticket, of nothing.  There‘s no crime unless the baby was living. 

And she‘s in jail on $2 million bail like she‘s some kind of mass murderer.  That‘s what‘s offensive. 

And it should be offensive to anyone, because no one knows the facts in the case yet.  And she‘s being indicted without knowing the facts.  All I‘m asking is people wait until the facts come out until we brand her as a baby killer, or you brand her as a baby killer, and... 

COSBY:  And, Mr. Wallin, we‘re not doing that.  But we do appreciate you coming on, as well.  We invited you, and we‘d love to have her on, too, as well.

And do I want to show that the coroner‘s preliminary finding determined that the child was alive.  But I agree with you.  The bail is high.  And indeed, if it is stillborn, there‘s not an issue.  So there are two sides to the story.  We did get you on to show that.