The 18-year-old Evening Shade woman who is accused of attempting to kill her 2-month-old child by smothering her inside a Little Rock hospital has a history of mental illness, according to the woman's mother.
Patricia Edwards of Nashville, Tenn., said her daughter, April Edwards, doesn't need to be locked up in jail but instead needs treatment at a mental health facility. April Edwards is charged with criminal attempt to commit capital murder, a class A felony.
She has been in the Pulaski County Regional Detention Facility since March 21, the day she allegedly tried to kill her daughter, Kierra Arnold, by covering her mouth and nose. She's being held on a $500,000 bond. She has pleaded not guilty to the crime.
"She's hurt. She knows she did wrong and it's driving her crazy," Patricia Edwards said during a phone interview March 24 from a friend's home near Evening Shade.
April Edwards suffers from attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder and depression, Patricia Edwards said, adding that her daughter was raped at the age of 11. Because of her problems, April Edwards has been in treatment for years and has spent time inside a psychiatric hospital in the past, her mother said.
"They don't know nothing about my daughter," Patricia Edwards said. "They need to get her some help."
"She is a child trapped in a woman's body," said Vivian Whited, April Edward's aunt. "She may be an 18-year-old on the outside, but mentally she's still a little girl."
Patricia Edwards said her daughter's problems got worse when she became pregnant. April Edwards couldn't take her daily medicine for fear it would hurt the baby. She was not able to get back on the medicine after giving birth because of the cost. Then post-partum depression, along with her other psychiatric problems and an unsupportive boyfriend, contributed to the murder attempt, Patricia Edwards said.
April Edwards moved to Evening Shade about three months ago with her boyfriend who is originally from the area. The two met in Edward's home state of Tennessee and had been living in a trailer owned by his grandfather.
"I told the father when she left my house that she needed to be watched," Patricia Edwards said. "She wanted to come back but he wouldn't let her."
April Edwards gave birth to Kierra Arnold Jan. 20 in Batesville. Soon after birth, the baby began suffering from respiratory problems causing her to be in and out of hospitals, Patricia Edwards said.
Authorities said April Edwards and her daughter had been staying at the Ronald McDonald house when the baby "turned blue." The baby was then admitted to Arkansas Children's Hospital March 17, said Detective Jason Follett with the Little Rock Police Department.
While the baby stayed in the hospital, staff members monitored the child's condition 24 hours a day by way of EEG and other machines, including a video recorder placed inside the room, said Dan McFadden, director of communications for the hospital.
"In this particular situation it's a combination of tracking vitals and using diagnostic video and monitoring," McFadden said. "There are always things you need to be looking for. It's a routine part of treatment."
The baby did well throughout the weekend and into the first part of the week. On March 21 everything changed.
Around 1:15 p.m. observed Edwards hold her hand over the child's nose and mouth, blocking the baby's oxygen supply, said Officer Michelle Hill with the Little Rock Police Department's Public Affairs Office. The monitors began to go off, and the staff, steps away, rushed in to intervene, McFadden said.
"They (the staff) caught her in the act, and when they came in she backed away," Hill said. Upon further inspection, it appeared that Edwards took one monitor off the child and attempted to remove others, to no avail, Hill said.
The child was blue but staff members began resuscitation and saved the child, McFadden said. The child has been released from the hospital, he said.
Social workers, security officers and police officers responded to the hospital. Police took Edwards to the Pulaski County Regional Detention Facility where she was charged and incarcerated.
In interviews with detectives, Edwards admitted to trying to kill her daughter because "the child has been a financial burden since birth," Detective Linda Hudson wrote in a report.
"Ms. Edwards admitted that shortly after lunch she conceived a plan to suffocate the baby with the intent of killing the baby," Follett wrote in a report. "Ms. Edwards admitted that after approximately 30 minutes of planning the murder, she unplugged the machine monitoring Kierra's breathing, stood beside the hospital bed with Kierra sleeping and put her hand over Kierra's mouth, suffocating her."
Patricia Edwards said she has been able to talk to her daughter but not see her granddaughter, who has been placed in state custody since the incident.
"I didn't do this and I know it was wrong, but they're keeping me from seeing my grandbaby," Patricia Edwards said.
"This baby is probably going to get lost in the system when there is family that loves her and wants to take care of her," Whited said. "We're all stressed out and can't see the baby and worried about April."
Whited said she is unimpressed with Little Rock and its handling of the case. Patricia Edwards said authorities had not told her the name of her daughter's public defender and the attorney had not been to see her daughter as of the afternoon of March 24.
"Little Rock needs to get off their a-- and do something and let her mother know who her attorney is. April is not going to get help sitting behind those bars or a fair trial. She needs to be in Tennessee where we can go and see her," she said.