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Pregnant woman and her baby found dead after apparent kidnapping in Arkansas

(CNN) — A pregnant Benton County, Arkansas woman and the baby she was carrying were found dead in McDonald, Missouri. Now a couple is facing criminal charges in connection with the case.

At a press conference Thursday, Benton County Sheriff Shawn Holloway reported that husbands Amber and Jamie Waterman are being held at McDonald’s on kidnapping charges and would face additional charges related to the deaths of Ashley Bush and the baby they I expected.

“This is one of the most horrific cases I’ve ever been involved with,” Holloway said.

For his part, the Benton County prosecutor, Nathan Smith, explained at the press conference that so far it is not known whether Bush was murdered in Arkansas or Missouri. The official added that there are multiple scenes in the case. According to prison records and a statement from the McDonald County Sheriff’s Office, the FBI was involved in the arrest of the Watermans on Thursday.

Smith said the suspects will most likely face federal charges.

“The authorities have reason to believe that they are both involved in this crime. And obviously, as the facts unfold and the investigation continues, we will know the extent of that involvement of each. But the evidence is, at this point, that there was reason to retain them,” he said.

Pregnant woman found dead after apparent kidnapping

Ashley Bush. (Credit: Benton County Sheriff’s Office/Facebook)

In a statement Tuesday, Benton County police said Bush, 31 weeks pregnant, was last seen in the passenger seat of an old tan station wagon in Maysville, Arkansas.

“The driver was a white female in her 40s with shoulder-length brown hair, who said her name was ‘Lucy.’ Ashley met Lucy online when she was looking for a job from home. Lucy picked her up that morning at the Handi-Mart in Maysville to take her to a job interview in Bentonville,” the statement said.

Investigators believe that “Lucy” was actually Amber Waterman.

Police say Bush was found dead Monday in a different place than the baby she was expecting.

McDonald County Sheriff Rob Evenson told CNN in an email that the baby had been dead as of Monday afternoon.

“We received a 911 call that this woman had given birth and the baby had stopped breathing,” he said. “Two of my assistants, as well as an emergency worker and first responders, did CPR to try to save the baby, but they were unsuccessful.”

McDonald County Coroner William Goodwin told CNN by phone that the baby’s cause of death has not been determined. And he added that an autopsy is being done in Little Rock.

“The baby was removed from the mother after the mother was murdered,” he said. “I don’t know if the baby came out alive or dead.”

According to Goodwin, he was contacted after the Watermans said that Amber Waterman was a week past her due date and was having morning contractions. They told officers they didn’t have enough time to get to the hospital and called emergency dispatch saying they gave birth in her vehicle.

Goodwin said the woman refused medical treatment and wouldn’t let an ambulance take her to the hospital, wanting to leave with the baby.

“I didn’t let them take the baby. I took custody of the baby as the county coroner,” Goodwin said.

Goodwin said the Watermans told officers they were going to the hospital on their own but didn’t have enough gas money to get there, so officers gave them gas money and told them to call. with Ozark Funeral Home, owned by Goodwin, once they were released from the hospital. Goodwin said they were after the ambulance, but they turned off down another road and no one knew if they ever made it to the hospital.

According to Goodwin, the Watermans arrived at the Ozark Funeral Home on Tuesday to make funeral arrangements for the baby.

“They came here and they were ready to make arrangements and have a service and then cremate the baby,” Goodwin said.

Goodwin said the service was scheduled for Wednesday and would include the couple as well as 6 or 8 family members.

Shortly after the appointment, Goodwin received a phone call from the Benton County coroner expressing suspicions about the baby’s identity.

“The Benton County Coroner called me and said, ‘Hey, something’s wrong with this baby. We believe this is related to the kidnapping,’” Goodwin said.

Goodwin was told that the descriptions of the kidnapping vehicle matched and that Benton County wanted to do an autopsy on the baby. Goodwin agreed, but insisted that the funeral be held first in case there was a mistake.

“When they got here on Wednesday, we did the service with their family, they were all very distraught, which is normal after parents go through something so traumatic,” he said.

When Goodwin explained to Amber Waterman that the Benton County coroner would perform an autopsy on the baby, she said their demeanor changed and asked if they would be tested for DNA.

Goodwin is awaiting autopsy results that will determine if the baby breathed before she died.

According to a statement from the McDonald County Sheriff’s Office released Thursday, McDonald County deputies along with the FBI and the Benton County Sheriff’s Office issued a search warrant on Laughlin Ridge Road in Missouri in connection with a “missing person/kidnapping investigation that began earlier in the week.”

“While carrying out the search warrant, human remains were found that are believed to be related to this investigation. Two individuals are in custody and are being held at the McDonald County Jail pending the filing of formal charges,” the statement said.

According to Holloway, police believe Bush was shot to death.

“This is just a reminder that there is evil in the world. People do bad things, and for someone to take advantage of a pregnant woman, you know, in her most vulnerable state is unimaginable,” Smith said.

Sheriff Holloway said they are working with the FBI and the McDonald County, Missouri Sheriff’s Office and that it is “a very active investigation.”

It’s unclear if Amber and Jamie Waterman have attorneys.

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