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Woman charged with first-degree murder for death of newborn

Apr 16, 2014 - By Eric Blom, Staff Writer

Federal prosecutors charged an Eastern Shoshone woman with first-degree murder on Tuesday in the death of a newborn boy three weeks ago.

An affidavit in the case stated that the defendant, Ardis Sierra Enos, 20, suffocated the child soon after giving birth March 26 at her family home, 458 Plunkett Road, on the Wind River Indian Reservation.

Enos was placed in the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service.

If convicted, Enos faces up to life in prison, a $250,000 fine, and five years of supervised release. The defendant has a detention hearing scheduled for Friday in Lander in front of U.S. Magistrate Judge Teresa McKee, who will decide whether to keep Enos in jail until her trial and whether to set a bond.

FBI special agent David Donati investigated the case and, in the affidavit, said he interviewed Enos on April 7 about the events of March 26.

Nothing in her reported statements explains why she would have killed the boy, but they do indicate she kept her pregnancy secret.

Enos, who had recently completed a certified nursing assistant certification at Central Wyoming College, did not know she was pregnant until the fourth month of her pregnancy, she said.

She was scared to tell her mother, family or friends about her pregnancy and did not do so, according to court documents. Nor did she tell the father, though she kept in touch with him until December.

No one pressured her to have an abortion, and it is not a practice she believes in, Enos said.

A court document stated she did not seek prenatal care or tell anyone else about her pregnancy.

She started to have cramps at about 11 p.m. March 25 and did not sleep well that night, Enos said. All of her family left her home by 7:15 a.m. March 26, and Enos started to think she was giving birth.

She laid towels on the bathroom floor, retrieved a steak knife and gave birth on her own, according to the document.

Enos at first told Donati she did not feel the child had a heartbeat and tried to revive it, according to court documents. She later changed her story and said the boy was born alive, breathing and crying.

She was still bleeding from her cut umbilical cord, and Enos said she was losing "a lot of blood."

After about 10 minutes, she decided to kill the baby by drowning it in the blood coming from her umbilical cord, Enos told Donati, and she held her baby under the stream until it stopped breathing.

Then, she wrapped the body, left the body in a ditch on her property, and did not tell anyone she had given birth, Enos reportedly said.

Complications from the birth drove her to seek medical help the next day. Enos said she thought she was at her "end point," and she decided to go to the hospital, according to the document. The hospital visit led to an investigation by law enforcement.

An emergency department physician at Lander Regional Hospital called the FBI at 10:10 a.m. March 27 about Enos, the document stated. Reportedly, Enos told the doctor she had had a still-born baby and had buried it in her yard on Plunkett Road.

Investigators say Enos told doctors earlier that she had abdominal pains but denied having been pregnant. The doctor determined Enos had been pregnant, and the defendant then told the story about having a stillborn. The physician operated on Enos to remove the umbilical cord and placenta.

Investigators searched Enos's property that day, and lying in a dry irrigation ditch they found a bloody towel. Wrapped in the towel, an investigator, referred to as "the coroner" in the document, found the body of a baby boy.

In a March interview, Fremont County Coroner Ed McAuslan confirmed his office was helping investigate the March 26 death of an infant on the Wind River Indian Reservation.

An autopsy performed by a forensic pathologist in Loveland, Colo., found a cause of death consistent with Enos's story. The doctor decided the cause was "an unknown obstruction to the baby's airway," the court document stated, and the manner was homicide.

Donati confirmed that Enos is a member of the Eastern Shoshone Tribe. Tribal members accused of major crimes committed on the reservation face their charges in federal court.

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Wind River Indian Reservation