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Police seek mom of girl who died after being locked in freezing Alaska bedroom

CBS/KTVA
(CBS/AP) ANCHORAGE, Alaska - Police say a 3-year-old Alaska girl died and her younger sister suffered hypothermia after their mother and the mother's boyfriend left them in a locked bedroom with a window open because the girls wet their beds. The temperature outside was 30 degrees below zero.

Their mother, Esther G. Edwards-Gust, a 28-year-old elementary school teacher, was apparently on the run Saturday, a day after she and 29-year-old Richard Tilden Jr. were indicted in the child's death. The couple lived with the children in the Inupiat Eskimo community of Barrow.

According to police, the two girls, 1 and 3-years-old, were trapped overnight in their bedroom with a window open. Both children were diagnosed with extreme hypothermia and flown to an Anchorage hospital, where the 3-year-old died.

Tilden called the emergency dispatcher when he discovered the 3-year-old unresponsive and not breathing Feb. 2. According to court documents, Tilden woke up about 12:30 p.m. that day, and noticed both girls needed to be changed after soiling themselves. It was during the changing process he noticed that one of the girls was unconscious. Officers said Tilden smelled of alcohol when they were at the apartment, court documents said.

Tilden told authorities he had been drinking the night before and opened the bedroom window to air out the room because the girls wet their beds, court documents say. He also said the door's latch was broken, making it impossible for anyone inside the room to open it.

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, told officers the children were sleeping in their beds when she left for work that morning. Anchorage Police spokesman Lt. Dave Parker said Saturday that Edwards-Gust 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.

On Friday, a grand jury indicted Tilden and Edwards-Gust on charges including manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide. Tilden also faces second-degree murder and assault charges. He was arrested last month.

A warrant has been issued for Edwards-Gust's arrest.

  • Crimesider Staff

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