Defense lawyer: Eckersley believed she had miscarried, police berated her

Jan. 12—A homeless woman who gave birth in a Manchester tent last month was frightened, bleeding, crying, cold and confused in the minutes after the unexpected birth, according to papers filed Thursday that challenge her arrest.

The defense filing in Hillsborough County Superior Court is based on police bodycam and 911 tapes. It paints a different picture than what was described in a police affidavit on Alexandra Eckersley's arrest.

Public defender Kim Kossick said Eckersley shouldn't have been arrested.

"I don't think she committed a crime," Kossick said in an interview.

Eckersley, 26, gave birth to a premature baby sometime around midnight on Dec. 26. She is accused of leaving the newborn alone in a tent when it was 15 degrees outside.

She faces several charges: second-degree assault and falsifying physical evidence, both felonies, and misdemeanor reckless conduct.

Police have accused Eckersley of lying to them about the newborn's whereabouts. The assault charges stem from leaving the newborn alone in the tent.

Papers filed by her public defender describe a woman who thought she was only three months pregnant and had miscarried.

She was still bleeding and had not expelled her placenta when speaking to an E-911 operator, who instructed her how to stop moving, stem the bleeding and stay warm.

It's clear, Kossick wrote, that the operator and Eckersley believed she had miscarried. The operator told the fire/rescue crews that the fetus was not likely viable and told Eckersley to leave the fetus on the ground.

"She tells Ms. Eckersley to leave the fetus where it is, and to stay where she is, so the paramedics can see her when they arrive," reads the request for a probable cause hearing.

By demanding the hearing, Kossick is effectively challenging whether a crime took place.

Manchester police would not comment on the filing. Shawn Sweeney, the Hillsborough County prosecutor in charge of the case, said the investigation is ongoing and referred a reporter to the public pleadings in the case.

The defense filing casts a critical light on how Manchester police handled Eckersley.

According to the filing, after police arrived at the scene, they took Eckersley from an ambulance, strapped a headlamp on her and asked her to find the tent. They muttered under their breath that she was "out of her —ing mind." They gave her Miranda warnings and later interrogated her at the station.

At one point, Eckersley asked a detective to please stop after the detective said that mothers bring children into the world. "(Detective) Canada Stewart's reply was 'Stop what? Stop making you feel bad about leaving your child to die in the cold?' Ms. Eckersley began crying harder ...," the papers read.

According to the filing, Eckersley's tent companion, George Theberge, abandoned her, and she passed the placenta on a trail.

Her lawyers say she did not disclose where the tent was for fear of Theberge.

"George Theberge told Ms. Eckersley not to tell the police where the camp was. Ms. Eckersley was afraid of George Theberge," the filing reads. "As soon as Ms. Eckersley realized she was safe in the ambulance, and that George was not coming back, she took the police to the tent."

On Wednesday, police located Theberge and charged him with witness tampering, reckless conduct and child endangerment.

Eckersley is the adopted daughter of former Red Sox pitching great Dennis Eckersley and his second wife, Nancy.

According to the filing, Alexandra Eckersley told police that Theberge told her the baby had no pulse.

Back at the station, police told Eckersley the baby was alive and a boy. She cried and named him Edward Ruth after her grandparents. She thought adoption would be best because she can't care for him, the filing said.

mhayward@unionleader.com