Trooper: Mother showed no emo­tion

North White­hall woman faces trial in death of baby dis­cov­ered in paint bucket

The Morning Call - - FRONT PAGE - By Manuel Gamiz Jr.

It was a hec­tic day two years ago when state Trooper Michael Everk went to the North White­hall Town­ship home of Ash­ley N. Caraballo and in­formed her that he and other state po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tors were there to serve a search war­rant.

The older of Caraballo’s five chil­dren was get­ting ready for school and some of them were cry­ing, so Everk took Caraballo into the kitchen to show her the war­rant — to look for elec­tron­ics and a baby. When Caraballo saw the war­rant, “she showed no emo­tion,” Everk tes­ti­fied.

A trooper later would dis­cover a dead baby hid­den in a 5-gal­lon paint bucket in the

base­ment. Caraballo’s fi­ance and her mother, who were there dur­ing the Oct. 25, 2017, search, were both vis­i­bly shaken and up­set about the dis­cov­ery, Everk tes­ti­fied. So were some of the in­ves­ti­ga­tors.

But Caraballo, he tes­ti­fied, looked the “same as when I came in. No emo­tion.”

Everk was the only wit­ness to tes­tify Wed­nes­day at Caraballo’s pre­lim­i­nary hear­ing on charges she ripped a baby boy from her womb, killed the baby and then hid the body in the bucket. District Judge Michael Pochron ruled his tes­ti­mony pro­vided enough ev­i­dence to send Caraballo to trial on charges of homi­cide, con­ceal­ing the death of a child and abuse of a corpse.

Caraballo, 30, was ar­rested in June af­ter a lengthy state po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tion that re­quired mul­ti­ple med­i­cal rul­ings and foren­sic tests that de­ter­mined the baby died of ei­ther as­phyxia, blood loss or hy­pother­mia, and was born alive, author­i­ties said. She has been in Le­high County Jail without bail since her June 19 ar­rest.

Caraballo’s at­tor­ney, Dennis Charles, de­clined to com­ment fol­low­ing the hear­ing. He did not present a de­fense dur­ing clos­ing ar­gu­ments of the hear­ing. About a dozen of her friends and rel­a­tives at­tended the hear­ing in Le­high County Cen­tral Court, but they also de­clined to com­ment.

Dur­ing Wed­nes­day’s hear­ing, Everk tes­ti­fied he first be­gan in­ves­ti­gat­ing the case on Oct. 21, 2017, af­ter be­ing called to St. Luke’s Hospi­tal in Al­len­town, where Caraballo was be­ing treated for vag­i­nal bleed­ing, and doc­tors found that she had a pla­centa but no baby.

Caraballo told doc­tors the pla­centa was from her baby born a year ear­lier, Everk tes­ti­fied. He said the doc­tor told him that was “ab­so­lutely not” the case, and the pla­centa be­longed to a 30- to 34-week-old baby who was re­cently born.

Ac­cord­ing to court records, she kept the preg­nancy of her fifth child in 2016 a se­cret un­til a few days be­fore the baby was de­liv­ered.

The next year, she again hid that she was preg­nant, and the fa­ther of the chil­dren only found out when state po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tors searched the base­ment of their home in Oc­to­ber 2017 and found the body of a full-term, nearly 8-pound baby boy stuffed in a paint bucket, ac­cord­ing to a re­port from Le­high County Chil­dren and Youth Ser­vices.

Ac­cord­ing to a crim­i­nal com­plaint:

Caraballo was get­ting the chil­dren ready for school on Oct. 20, 2017, when her part­ner and fa­ther of her chil­dren, Paul Wil­son Sr., no­ticed a blood spot on her pa­jama pants. When the blood started to gush, he rushed her to the hospi­tal.

An ob­ste­tri­cian at St. Luke’s Hospi­tal in Al­len­town said she showed signs of re­cently giv­ing birth, in­clud­ing what ap­peared to be an un­cut por­tion of an um­bil­i­cal cord still at­tached to pla­cen­tal tis­sue. The ob­ste­tri­cian said the pla­cen­tal tis­sue came from a 30to 34-week fe­tus.

The doc­tor said Caraballo’s in­juries were con­sis­tent with a baby be­ing “ripped out” when the cervix was not fully di­lated. Doc­tors de­ter­mined the birth could have hap­pened sev­eral hours ear­lier or up to two to three days be­fore she came to the hospi­tal.

The ob­ste­tri­cian no­ti­fied po­lice, and Trooper Everk ar­rived the next day to be­gin his in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Caraballo re­peat­edly de­nied giv­ing birth and claimed the pla­cen­tal tis­sue was from her last preg­nancy a year ear­lier.

Med­i­cal records from that preg­nancy con­tra­dicted her claim, and they also showed that she lied about hav­ing un­der­gone other pro­ce­dures that would have pre­vented her from get­ting preg­nant.

State po­lice twice searched the cou­ple’s home on the 5400 block of Mauser Street in North White­hall Town­ship, where they lived with their five chil­dren, who were be­tween 1 and 10 years old at the time.

The first search hap­pened on Oct. 21, 2017, but po­lice did not find a fe­tus or baby.

Po­lice re­turned to the home with a search war­rant on Oct. 25, 2017, and dur­ing a search of the stor­age area of the base­ment, troop­ers found a baby boy wrapped in a sheet inside a pink chil­dren’s back­pack, which was then stuffed inside a black garbage bag and then the 5-gal­lon paint bucket.

Dur­ing Wed­nes­day’s hear­ing, Chief Deputy District At­tor­ney Matt Falk pre­sented sev­eral images of the dis­cov­ery as ev­i­dence.

An ini­tial au­topsy could not de­ter­mine how the baby died. Foren­sic pathol­o­gist Dr. Samuel Land de­scribed the baby as be­ing full-term, 7.9 pounds and 21.85 inches long. The baby, posthu­mously named Paul E. Wil­son Jr. af­ter his fa­ther, showed no signs of trauma, Land said.

The case was for­warded to Bal­ti­more’s Chief Med­i­cal Ex­am­iner Dr. David Fowler, an ex­pert in foren­sic pathol­ogy, and in a writ­ten re­port on March 11, 2018, he opined that the baby was born alive and died from one or any com­bi­na­tion of as­phyxia, blood loss or hy­pother­mia. Foren­sic pathol­o­gist Dr. Isi­dore Mi­ha­lakis re­viewed the case and also con­cluded that the baby was born alive and his death was a homi­cide.

A fi­nal rul­ing that the baby’s death was a homi­cide was made by Le­high County Coro­ner Eric Min­nich on June 19, the day Caraballo was ar­rested.

The baby’s fa­ther was not charged be­cause the in­ves­ti­ga­tion de­ter­mined he was unaware that Caraballo was even preg­nant.

In an­nounc­ing charges against Caraballo, Le­high County District At­tor­ney Jim Martin said “this case pre­sented com­plex med­i­cal is­sues, which had to be thor­oughly in­ves­ti­gated in or­der to de­ter­mine whether Ms. Caraballo could be charged with mur­der.”

Morn­ing Call re­porter Manuel Gamiz Jr. can be reached at 610-820-6595 or at [email protected]

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