Kentucky State Police arrested Ashley Nicole Cox on Monday and charged her with first-degree murder and concealing the birth of an infant. Cox was being held at the Oldham County Jail.
Preliminary autopsy results show her baby was alive and healthy when she was born at the Roederer Correctional Complex, police said. The cause of death has not been determined.
According to an arrest citation, Cox is accused of forcing toilet paper into the baby’s mouth until it was unable to breathe.
Cox was visiting inmate Justin Bell, 21, at the medium-security men’s prison Sunday morning when she went to the bathroom near the visiting room, according to state police and Lisa Lamb, spokeswoman for the Kentucky Department of Corrections.
Cox had arrived about 8:45 a.m. with two other people, and after passing through security entered the visiting room about 10 a.m., Lamb said. It was not apparent that Cox was in labor when she went to the single-stall restroom about 10:55 a.m., Lamb said.
“No one heard anything,” she said. “But when the staff noticed that she’d been in there too long, they knocked on the door, got her to open the door and saw the blood.”
She said the staff reported that Cox had been in the restroom for 10 to 12 minutes.
Lamb said she’s not sure what explanation Cox gave, but she did not tell the staff she’d given birth.
“At no time did Cox indicate she was in distress, call out for help, or try and obtain help while at the prison,” Lamb said.
“The restrooms are near the visiting room, a noisy room, and Sunday’s the biggest day” for visitors, she said.
A medical staff member at the prison was notified about Cox’s bleeding and called Oldham County EMS.
EMS director Ron Wilder said his department was responding to a call about a miscarriage, but when the team arrived, Cox seemed to indicate there hadn’t been a miscarriage.
“I can’t tell you what she said, but it led us to believe there was no fetus, just heavy bleeding,” Wilder said.
So EMS did not search for a fetus, which is standard procedure for a miscarriage, Wilder said.
EMS took Cox to Baptist Hospital East at 11:44 a.m.
About 4 p.m., Oldham County Dispatch notified prison employees that Cox had given birth to a full-term baby, “but the child was missing and might be in a trash can, in the restroom, in the visiting room,” Lamb said.
Staff began to search for the baby, and Oldham dispatch alerted Kentucky State Police.
The trash bin in the restroom had been emptied after Cox was taken to the hospital, said state police Trooper Michael Webb, and the employees “didn’t realize what had taken place.”
The child was found in a different trash receptacle at the prison at 4:29 p.m., police said.
After unsuccessful efforts at resuscitation, the baby was pronounced dead by Oldham County Coroner Brett Donner at 4:42 p.m., police said.
Police have not identified the baby’s father.
Webb said he’s not sure of Cox’s relationship with Bell, who he said has been held at the prison for 10 months on burglary and theft charges.
Webb said Cox has a 2-year-old daughter and is going through a divorce.
Corbin, her hometown, is 165 miles southeast of Louisville.
Roederer, on Morgan Road, houses 982 inmates and serves as a state assessment center for male inmates.