RENO, Nev. - A terminally ill baby was still alive when her mother placed her in a plastic bag, doused it with gasoline and set the bag on fire, a police investigator testified.
Sparks police Detective Steve Fiore said tests show the 2-month-old girl inhaled smoke, meaning she was alive when her mother, Suceli Ardon, allegedly burned her March 6 in a field. A woman walking her dogs found the baby's charred body about two weeks later.
Fiore offered the testimony during a Washoe County District Court hearing Thursday that ended with Ardon's release from jail on her own recognizance.
Deputy District Attorney Luke Prengaman said he will likely file homicide charges against the 26-year-old Ardon, who has two other children who live with their father.
She currently is charged with third-degree arson for the scorching of a small section of the Sparks field and with destroying evidence, including the gas can she allegedly used.
Ardon told police she panicked after she thought she gave her baby an accidental, fatal overdose of morphine, a drug she gave the infant to manage her pain.
The baby, named Brandy, suffered from a terminal, genetic disorder - Wolf-Hirschhorn syndrome - and had recently been released from hospice care when she died.
Ardon's attorney, Sean Sullivan, said she's still grieving the death of her baby, whom she deeply loved. Ardon's boyfriend and the baby's father, Luis Martinez, testified that the couple were unaware Brandy would be born with fatal birth defects. They realized her condition about two weeks after her birth.
Martinez said both were devastated that their daughter was dying, and their lives consisted of him working two jobs, while Ardon stayed with the baby at the hospital.
Prengaman argued that Ardon is a flight risk because she is a native of Guatemala and knows she will be facing homicide charges.
But District Judge Steven Kosach ordered that she be released on her own recognizance and wear an electronic monitoring bracelet.
She had been in jail without bail until Thursday's hearing.