Former soldier who gave birth in combat found dead in Frankfort

Pvt. Ashley Shelton and Benjamin (Source: WTHR staff)

FRANKFORT, Ind. (WTHR) — A former Indiana soldier who unexpectedly gave birth in combat has died.

13 Investigates has learned that Ashley Shelton was found dead Saturday in Frankfort.

She was just 27 years old.

13 Investigates first introduced viewers to Ashley Shelton in November 2017 after she came forward to tell her unbelievable story.

In 2012, Shelton survived the unthinkable. She was deployed to Afghanistan despite five positive pre-deployment pregnancy tests.

Three months into deployment, Shelton gave birth to a near full-term baby boy in a latrine in the combat zone.

The birth was kept relatively quiet by the Army and was never reported in the mainstream media until Shelton broke her silence to WTHR.

Pvt. Ashley Shelton (Source: WTHR staff)

At the time, Shelton had no idea how many pregnancy tests had actually come back positive.

In May 2018, Shelton obtained new explosive medical records that detailed the pregnancy tests. The reports also revealed an Army flight doctor signed off on Shelton's deployment claiming the tests were false positives due to Shelton's potential exposure to mice on a family farm in Indiana.

After returning to Indiana, Shelton faced different battles.

The 27-year old former soldier was found dead in her car outside a Frankfort hotel on Saturday night March 30.

She had gone there to meet and swim with her mother and 6-year-old son Benjamin.

Frankfort police told 13 Investigates Shelton was in the front seat of her car reclining and unconscious.

Clinton County Chief Deputy Coroner Mike Brooks told 13 Investigates there is nothing suspicious and no foul play suspected in Shelton's death.

The coroner's office is awaiting additional autopsy results.

Shelton had openly told 13 Investigates she struggled with PTSD, depression and other issues common to soldiers with war-time traumas.

Still she wanted answers for her now 6-year-old son and to build a life for him.

Shelton left the Indiana Army National Guard last year on full disability.

The doctor who sent her into combat, identified in medical records as Dr. Jonathan Richard Coyle, was questioned by medical licensing investigators in Nebraska where he is licensed to practice. No disciplinary action was taken against him. In a letter Shelton shared with 13 Investigates, Nebraska officials found "no pattern of incompetent or negligent conduct," despite five positive pregnancy tests.

Ashley Shelton's death comes as a surprise to all who knew her. There are still unanswered questions. At the same time, the U.S. Army has never provided any information regarding its investigation into the deployment mistake and Shelton giving birth in combat.

One thing Shelton had hoped to share once the process was complete, was her thanks to the Army doctors who took care of her and Benjamin in the medical tent in Afghanistan. The following are her words sent via text to WTHR Investigative Reporter, Sandra Chapman in 2018.

"At the end of all this I do want to point out that even though it wasn't supposed to happen and I don't remember all the docs in the ER tent...they did an amazing job with me and Ben." "The guys who helped (with the) commute made...Ben's first air force (flight go) as smoothly as it possibly could have gone." "From Shindand to Bagram, I had a female on flight who was part of the crew (who) tried to help Ben latch to eat. The guys were very respectful. ... And to me they are my heroes." — Spc. Ashley N. Shelton, 2018

There will a service for Shelton Friday, April 5 at Goodwin Funeral Home on 200 S. Main Street in Frankfort. Visitation will be from 2 to 4 p.m. A service with military honors will follow at 4 p.m.

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