Ashley Wilkins only got a brief break in her legal troubles on Wednesday after a Mobile County grand jury indicted her for abusing a corpse only hours after a judge had thrown out similar charges against her in district court.
Wilkins, 30, was originally arrested in early October after members of the Mobile Police Department discovered the body of a newborn in the backyard of her residence on Swansea Drive.That child was Wilkin’s daughter, which court records show was an eight-pound girl born on Oct. 3.
Charged at the time with abuse of a corpse, those charges were dismissed on Nov. 18 after District Judge Joe Basenberg said there was not enough probable cause to move forward with a case against Wilkins based on the charges.
However, only hours later, Wilkins was indicted for the exact same crime by a local grand jury — one that Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Wright said reviewed the case for the first time earlier that afternoon.
“We believe this was a decision that needed to be made by the citizens of Mobile County, and we believe this case should be heard and decided by Mobile County jurors,” Wright said. “This office will always stand up for victims, especially children and those who cannot protect themselves.”
Though the charge is the same, it will start a new case to be assigned before a Mobile County Circuit Court judge in the coming days. Speaking Wednesday on the lower court’s decision to dismiss the charges, Wright said the DA’s office respectfully disagreed with Judge Basenberg’s decision.
A Fox10 Report from the courtroom said Brasenberg felt the majority of corpse abuse cases he’d reviewed involved dismemberment and not just burying a body. Wright said the DA’s office reads the statute differently.
“We believe it’s very clear that this is abuse of corpse as described in the statute,” Wright said. “The defendant, Ashley Wilkins, knowingly treated a corpse in a way that would outrage ordinary family sensibilities.’ That’s right from the statute.”
Those family sensibilities will be put to the test before a jury of Wilkins’ peers once the legal process moves forward, but in the meantime Wright said the investigation would continue.
Investigators are still awaiting the results of an autopsy that should clear up some of the mystery surrounding how the child may have died. Police initially reported the baby was “thought to have been stillborn,” based on statements from Wilkins.
It was also reported Wilkins appeared to officers to be under the influence of drugs at the time they discovered the body, but Wright said neither of those could be confirmed until the autopsy results were received.
Despite that, Wright referred to the child as a “5 day old” more than once during Wednesday’s press conference. When asked, she clarified that to be based upon the time between the child’s birth on Oct. 3 and Oct. 8, when authorities discovered her body partially buried in a plastic bag.
Wilkins was booked into the Mobile Metro Jail again this afternoon, and a bond was set at $3,000. However, Wright did not rule out the possibility of additional charges or additional defendants in a case she described as “very much ongoing.”
Though the range of a possible sentence would depend on a number of factors, including prior criminal history, Wright said abuse of a corpse — a class C felony — is punishable by at least one to 10 years in prison.