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Alaska mom, boyfriend indicted in child's death
Mother of 3-year-old Alaska girl who had hypothermia, died apparently on the lam
By The Associated Press

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) ' The mother of a 3-year-old Alaska girl who died after authorities say she and her sister were locked in a bedroom with a window open to minus 30-degree temperatures was apparently on the lam Saturday, a day after she and her boyfriend were indicted in the child's death.

A grand jury on Friday indicted elementary teacher Esther G. Edwards-Gust, 28, and Richard Tilden Jr., 29, on charges including manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide.

The two shared a home with Edwards-Gust's 1- and 3-year-old daughters in the Inupiat Eskimo community of Barrow, the nation's northernmost town.

Police say Edwards-Gust's daughters last month were trapped overnight in their bedroom with a window open to temperatures that dropped to 30 degrees below zero.

Both children were diagnosed with extreme hypothermia and flown to an Anchorage hospital, where the 3-year-old later died.

Tilden later told authorities he'd been drinking the night before and opened the bedroom window because the girls wet their beds, according to court documents. He also said the door's latch was broken, preventing anyone inside the room from opening it.

Tilden also was charged with second-degree murder and assault. He's in custody, but Edwards-Gust had a warrant issued for her arrest.

Police didn't immediately return a message Saturday, and a home listing for the community's police chief was disconnected. A person who answered the phone at the borough jail said Edwards-Gust was not in custody there.

Tilden was the first to call 911 for help when he discovered the 3-year-old was unresponsive and not breathing Feb. 2.

Police officers said Tilden smelled of alcohol when they were at the apartment, according to court documents. The news was first reported by the Anchorage Daily News.

Tilden later said he bought two bottles of whiskey from a bootlegger, and began drinking the night before the children were found in the bedroom with the open window and a broken latch on the door that would have prevented anyone inside the room from opening the door, authorities said. Two empty bottles were found in the apartment.

Tilden also told officers he opened the bedroom window because the girls wet their beds, and he didn't close it before going to bed. In earlier interviews, Edwards-Gust told officers the girls were sleeping in their beds when she went to work that morning.

According to the documents, Tilden woke up about 12:30 p.m. on Feb. 2, and noticed both girls needed to be changed after soiling themselves. It was during the changing process he noticed the one was unresponsive.

He was arrested the same day on assault charges. After being in police custody for hours, officers said his blood-alcohol level was 0.164, more than twice the legal driving limit.

Edwards-Gust, who teaches in Barrow, was briefly in custody after traveling to Anchorage to be with her surviving daughter. Anchorage Police spokesman Lt. Dave Parker said Saturday she was initially arrested on assault charges, then set free at the request of the Barrow district attorney. Parker said he believed Edwards-Gust returned to Barrow.

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