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Bail Reduction Leads to Release of Student Accused in Infant's Death

The action comes as USC junior Holly Ashcraft pleads not guilty to murder and child abuse.

November 10, 2005|Andrew Blankstein | Times Staff Writer

A USC student accused of killing her newborn by dumping the infant in a trash dumpster was released from jail late Wednesday afternoon after a magistrate reduced her bond from $2 million to $200,000.

The bail reduction came as 21-year-old Holly Ashcraft, dressed in a business suit, entered a not guilty plea to murder and child abuse charges.

Many of the more than two dozen family members and friends who gathered for the college junior's hearing tearfully embraced in the hallway of the downtown criminal courts building after Commissioner James N. Bianco ruled that the Montana native was not enough of a public danger -- or flight risk -- to justify the multimillion-dollar bond.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Efrain Eceves argued to keep the high bail, citing Ashcraft's lack of meaningful ties to Los Angeles and the suspicious circumstances surrounding her earlier disposal of another baby in 2004. She told authorities the infant was stillborn. The baby was never found.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Friday November 11, 2005 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 37 words Type of Material: Correction
Infant's death -- An article in Thursday's California section about a USC student accused of killing her newborn being released on bail misspelled the last name of Los Angeles County Deputy Dist. Atty. Efrain Aceves as Eceves.

Bianco said Los Angeles police, who investigated the incident, did not establish that there was a criminal act.

Defense attorney Paul Wallin argued Ashcraft had no criminal record and posed no threat to the general public.

"Here, the only harm the defendant has allegedly inflicted on any member of the general public is harm to her own newborn child," the attorney argued. "There are no allegations that this defendant has ever represented a danger to children in general."

Wallin presented the court with 26 character letters from family, friends and teachers. Ashcraft's aunt, a flight attendant, lives locally, and the defendant's mother, a retired schoolteacher, has relocated to the Los Angeles area to be near her daughter, Wallin said.

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