Alexandra Eckersley, the 26-year-old adopted daughter of MLB Hall of Fame pitcher Dennis Eckersley, has been accused of giving birth in a wooded area of New Hampshire and then abandoning her newborn baby in freezing cold temperatures.
Just after midnight on December 26, police in Manchester, New Hampshire, received a call from a woman later identified as Eckersley. Initially, Eckersley told officers that she had given birth on an area soccer field, a police report states. As temperatures had already dipped below 20 degrees Fahrenheit, Manchester police, fire, and American medical response quickly sprang into action to find Eckersley's baby boy.
However, after searching unsuccessfully for more than an hour, police said that Eckersley eventually changed her story and redirected rescue teams to the child's correct location: a squalid, makeshift tent in the woods behind the West Side Ice Arena. When they found the boy, they claimed he was "moving, not crying, and exposed." Some reports indicate that the boy was found naked in a bloody area of the tent and that the lone propane heater inside the tent had been turned off.
The baby — who, at the time of his rescue, reportedly weighed about 4 lbs — was treated by EMTs at the scene then taken to Catholic Medical Center in Manchester before he was airlifted to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, approximately 75 miles north. Reports indicate that the baby was intubated, though, thankfully, his condition also appears to be improving.
"Had we not collectively located that little boy when we did and rendered the first aid that was rendered, I’m quite confident the child probably would have died in that tent," said Manchester police Chief Allen Aldenberg.
When asked why she allegedly misled police about the child's whereabouts, Eckersley claimed that she and "George," the man identified by some reports as her boyfriend and the possible father of the child, feared that authorities might seize their tent and other belongings. She also allegedly told police, "What do they tell you when a plane goes down? Save yourself first."
Eckersley's mother, Nancy, indicated to prosecutors that her daughter has a history of drug use and mental illness. She and her husband, Dennis — who spent 23 years as a pitcher in the major leagues, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2004, and who enjoyed a long broadcasting career with the Boston Red Sox after he retired from the mound — had offered their daughter the opportunity to live at home on the condition that she enter a drug treatment program. Eckersley allegedly refused that offer.
Eckersley has been arrested and charged with felony reckless conduct, second-degree assault/extreme indifference, endangering the welfare of a child, and falsifying physical evidence. She has pled not guilty through a telephone court appearance as she continues to recuperate in the hospital.
Eckersley's attorney, Jordan Strand, noted during the court appearance that Eckersley was the one who called 911 to report the premature birth and indicated that Eckersley's subsequent behavior was a cry for help.
"I think that what this affidavit shows is that someone asked for help when they needed it," Strand said. "This is a woman who unexpectedly gave birth while she is being unhoused and living in a tent, and we don't penalize people for being unhoused and living in a tent."
Outreach worker Carol M. Lizotte, who has known Eckersley for at least five years, expressed sympathy for the situation as well.
"Honestly, it’s breaking me up because she is not what she’s being painted to look like," Lizotte stated. "She has the potential to be a wonderful mother. … It’s not all her fault. She’s actually a victim in this case, just as much as the baby."
Others, like Aldenberg, have less compassion for Eckersley.
"There’s no excuse for this," Aldenberg said.
While Aldenberg acknowledged that adults have the right to live in filthy conditions if they so choose, he stated that no adult has the right to subject a child to danger. "[Y]ou don’t get to do this, what we’re alleging here," he stated. "You don’t get to do this to a child."
Judge Diane Nicolosi set Eckersley's bail at $3,000 but stated that Eckersley could be released without posting cash bail as long as she avoids contact with all minors, including her son, and as long as she lives with her parents, in a sober living facility, or in some other residence approved by the court.
Though the little boy is believed to be Eckersley's only child, Eckersley also has an unrelated child endangerment charge still pending against her. Other charges related to this latest incident may still be forthcoming as well. Police are still searching for "George" in connection to this case.