Pennsylvania State Police have charged an Allentown woman with homicide after a 2017 search of her former North Whitehall Township home turned up her newborn baby in a five-gallon paint bucket.
State police charged Ashley Caraballo, of East Fairview Street, with homicide, concealing the death of a child and abuse of corpse in connection to the death of her newborn son. District Judge Jacob Hammond arraigned the 30-year-old Wednesday morning. She's being held without bail.
"This was a very difficult case and one which took a toll on the officers involved," said Lehigh County District Attorney Jim Martin during a news conference Wednesday morning.
In October 2017, Caraballo was living at a Mauser Street home in North Whitehall Township with her partner and five children. Authorities said Caraballo's partner, Paul Wilson, took his wife to the hospital the morning of Oct. 20 because she was bleeding severely, according to court records.
Caraballo required surgery, and the attending physician reported to authorities that she discovered a great deal of placental tissue and a portion of an umbilical cord, according to records. The doctor reported that Caraballo's injuries appeared consistent with a person "ripping a baby" from the body before full dilation, according to court records.
The doctor estimated that the placental tissue was from a 30- to 34-week-old fetus, and she told police that the baby could have been removed hours or two to three days before Caraballo was admitted to the hospital.
Caraballo allegedly insisted to medical personnel that she was neither pregnant nor just delivered a baby. When confronted by the doctor with the medical evidence, she allegedly attributed the placental tissue to an earlier pregnancy a year prior. Medical personnel reportedly told investigators that medical records showed that was an impossibility.
State police on Oct. 21, 2017, searched the couple's Mauser Street home but did not find a fetus. Investigators interviewed her the next day, and she again denied being recently pregnant. Caraballo reportedly told authorities that she was using an IUD as birth control, but investigators said her medical records allegedly showed that no such procedure was ever done.
State police on Oct. 25, 2017, served a search warrant on the North Whitehall Township home, where troopers found a pair of 5-gallon paint buckets in the basement. The seal on one of the buckets was loose, prompting a trooper to pry off the lid.
Inside, authorities said they found a black trash bag tied in a knot. Inside the trash bag was a zippered pink children's backpack containing a rolled-up bedsheet. Troopers unrolled the bedsheet to discover a dead baby.
An autopsy showed the nearly full-term baby boy weighed nearly 8 pounds and showed no evidence of trauma. A forensic pathologist from Baltimore reviewed all the reports from the case and determined in March 2018 with a "reasonable degree of medical certainty" that the boy was born alive. He suggested that the cause of death was one or a combination of asphyxia, blood loss or hypothermia.
"This was an extremely difficult case for our troopers to work, not only from a professional standpoint but also from a personal standpoint," said Capt. Richard D'Ambrosio, commanding officer of PSP Troop M in Bethlehem. "They were able to put their emotions aside that day and get to work and do what was necessary to get to where we are today and announce an arrest in this case."
District Attorney Jim Martin said investigators believe Caraballo's partner did not know anything about her pregnancy, the baby or the baby's death. He is not facing charges in the case.