"I deserve to die" is what eighteen-year-old Amber Craker said to detectives in an interview that would later be played at her trial. Amber made this statement at Hendrick Regional Medical Center in Abilene, Texas, on January 18, 2016. She was hemorrhaging severely at the time. The police were called in after medical personnel suspected that she had just given birth. Then, as Amber was being readied for surgery to attend to her medical issues, police rushed to her home in South Abilene. There, they found the teenager's placenta clogging a sink. In a trash can nearby was the body of an infant girl. It was unclear whether the baby had ever lived, but she had cuts on her body.
Just a year before that eventful January, Amber Craker was a student in special-education classes at Cooper High School in South Abilene. In a news video, she appears opening up a Dumpster, sorting through the trash to find materials to recycle. This was one of the activities she did as part of the school's Green Team. "I always wanted to help people, so being part of the team makes me happy," she declares to her interviewer. That tape, dredged up by the television station from its archives, is now reposted on its website, an important component of the "How could she" tenor in which local media presented the case.
After she had undergone emergency surgery, detectives interviewed Craker. At first, she held her ground, telling them how she had kept the pregnancy a secret from her parents, who also lived in the home. Wracked by labor pains, she had muffled her cries with a washcloth, but at some point, overwhelmed, she had passed out. When she came to, the baby was out but not moving and still attached to the umbilical cord. When the detectives showed Craker pictures of the newborn, she said she had accidentally cut the baby while trying to detach the cord to save her. When the detectives pressed on, insisting that this "could never happen by accident," Amber admitted to trying to flush the baby down the toilet. When she couldn't, she hid it in the trash, wadded up in toilet paper, so her parents wouldn't find it. Then, with the hemorrhaging getting worse, she called for help. Her parents and boyfriend, Damien Cate, alarmed by the amount of blood, brought her to the hospital.
Not long after Amber Craker gave that interview, she was charged with murder and tampering with evidence. A few days later, Damian Cate was also charged with the same crime. "I'd ask her why she done this stuff," he told news reporters in Texas after his arrest, insisting that there was no way he'd had any part in the matter. But to police, he had said that he was present at the birth and that the baby had been born alive and that he had even held it for twenty minutes.
Then, three days later, in an incident usually left out of discussions of the Craker case, her uncle Christopher Craker was also arrested. His crime, in literal terms, was unconnected. In 2006, He had been convicted of molesting an eight-year-old girl. Following his release, he had failed to register as a sex offender, a fact police discovered only when they went into Amber Craker's home to find the baby. In 2006, Amber would have been eight years old, the same age as the unnamed minor Christopher Craker had been convicted of molesting.
The day after Amber was charged with capital murder for killing her daughter, the police officers who had responded to the 911 call and who had named the baby "Ashley" held a funeral service for the dead child. Amber's family did not have money to hold such a service, and so it was funded by donations that the police collected from the community. A second service was also held at nearby Abilene Christian College, where mourners insisted on calling the baby "Ashley Cate," using the father's last name. Mourners said they were there to communicate a message to the dead baby: "We love you, and you were a member of this community."