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Police: Alaska girl locked in frigid bedroom dies; mom on lam

A 3-year-old girl from America's northernmost community died and her younger sister suffered hypothermia after their mother and her boyfriend locked the girls inside a bedroom with a window open to temperatures of 30 degrees below zero because the girls had wet their beds, authorities said.

The mother, 28-year-old elementary teacher Esther G. Edwards-Gust, was apparently on the lam Saturday, a day after she and her boyfriend, 29-year-old Richard Tilden Jr., were indicted in the child's death. Tilden was in custody.

The couple shared a home with Edwards-Gust's 1- and 3-year-old daughters in the Inupiat Eskimo community of Barrow.


Police say the two girls last month were trapped overnight in their bedroom with a window open to temperatures that dropped to 30 degrees below zero. According to KTUU-TV in Anchorage, both children were diagnosed with extreme hypothermia and flown to an Anchorage hospital, where the 3-year-old died.

Tilden later told authorities he'd been drinking the night before and opened the bedroom window to air out the room because the girls wet their beds, according to court documents. He also said the door's latch was broken, making it impossible for anyone inside the room to open it.

A grand jury on Friday indicted Tilden and Edwards-Gust on charges including manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide. Tilden also faces second-degree murder and assault charges. He was arrested last month.

A warrant has been issued for Edwards-Gust's arrest. Police didn't immediately return a message Saturday, and a home listing for Barrow's police chief was disconnected. A person who answered the phone at the borough jail said Edwards-Gust was not in custody there.

Tilden called 911 when he discovered the 3-year-old was unresponsive and not breathing Feb. 2.

Officers said Tilden smelled of alcohol when they were at the apartment, court documents said. The news was first reported by the Anchorage Daily News.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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