Missing Baby Who Was Subject of Amber Alert Was 'Dropped Down Tunnel,' Mom Charged with Murder

Persia Nelson is accused of murdering her baby daughter, Halo Nelson

<p>New York State Police</p> Halo Nelson

New York State Police

Halo Nelson

A woman has been arrested and charged with murder in connection with the death of her infant daughter, who was found “inside a utility tunnel structure” hours after she was reported missing, authorities in Schenectady, N.Y, said at a press conference on Monday.

Persia Nelson, a woman in her mid-20s, has been charged with second-degree murder committed with depraved indifference, Schenectady Police Chief Eric Clifford said at the briefing, which was broadcasted by CBS6 Albany.

Authorities were alerted late Saturday evening by personnel at a General Electric facility that there was an alleged “female trespasser” — later identified as Nelson — who “didn’t know how she got there,” Clifford claimed.

Nelson allegedly indicated that she could not find her child, Halo Nelson, which triggered a night-long search that involved state police and forest rangers, Clifford said.

By Sunday morning, police were concerned Halo may have been abducted or exposed to a "dangerous situation" and issued an Amber Alert, Clifford said.

A search team soon found Halo "inside a utility tunnel structure" on the General Electric campus, Clifford said.

“The baby was dropped into this utility tunnel from the height of about eight feet to the bottom of the tunnel, where there was standing water,” Schenectady County District Attorney Robert M. Carney said at the briefing.

“The baby did not drown,” he said. “The baby was in the water, which came up to her chest and around her head but not to her face.”

Halo reportedly died after being taken to the hospital, authorities said. Meanwhile, they located Nelson in a heated building on the General Electric property. She was arrested on Sunday.

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Carney said authorities charged Nelson with manslaughter on Sunday, but following the autopsy report released on Monday, new charges were added.

The autopsy report said Halo died of exposure and hypothermia, according to Carney.

After receiving this report, authorities say they charged Nelson with an additional offense of “depraved murder” — murder in the second degree with “depraved indifference to human life” where the defendant allegedly “recklessly” engages in conduct causing the death or serious injury of someone less than 11-year-old, per Carney’s statement.

Nelson pleaded not guilty to the initial manslaughter charge, online court records show. Plea information for the murder charge was not listed in online records as of Monday afternoon. She is set to be arraigned later this month, authorities said at the briefing.

She has been assigned a public defender from the Schenectady County Public Defender's Office; PEOPLE could not immediately reach anyone in the office. 

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