MARKHAM, Ill. — Fake baby cries were used as a ruse to throw off Ana Marie Townsend’s grandparents after the toddler was already dead from an arson fire, prosecutors said in court Friday.

Melody Townsend, 40, was arrested last month in California, south suburban authorities announced Thursday. She’s been charged with two counts of child endangerment and concealing/aiding a fugitive.

Her daughter, Ana Marie Townsend, 2, was found dead July 3, 2017 at the scene of a vacant house fire at 155th and Hamlin in Markham.

In bond court Friday, prosecutors outlined what they think happened before Townsend was discovered in the fire.

At the end of June 2017, prosecutors said Melody Townsend was living with her daughter’s father at a hotel. According to court documents, one day Townsend left Ana with the father, who has not been identified or charged at this time, and went to work.

When she returned from work, Ana Marie appeared to be not breathing on the bed. Prosecutors allege Townsend then took a shower and when she came out — she saw Ana Marie’s father put the toddler in a car seat and drive away. Prosecutors allege she did not call 911 or try to help the toddler.

A few days later, Ana Marie’s body was discovered in a plastic bag following the aforementioned house fire. Police believe the father obtained lock box information to the house from a real estate agent. The house was recently vacant after the owner was transported to an assisted-living facility, according to documents.

During Ana Marie’s autopsy the next day, her death was ruled a homicide and authorities believe she was dead prior to the fire. Alcohol, barbiturates and cannabis were found in her bloodstream.

From the end of June until Sept. 2017, Townsend’s parents repeatedly made inquires about Ana Marie’s whereabouts to Melody. During that time, authorities said Melody gave various answers which she later admitted were lies.

On one particular occasion, a grandparent heard crying on the phone but did not recognize it to be Ana Marie. The father played fake baby cries from the internet while Melody told the grandparent she sounded different “because she was not feeling well,” according to court documents.

A grandparent also confronted Melody with a sketch of Ana Marie, which she allegedly denied to be the child.

Sketch of Ana Marie Townsend

After the discovery of her body, authorities said the father left the area to Texas in 2017. Melody cut ties with her family and other daughter in Sept. 2017, according to court documents. Sometime in 2019 or 2020, Melody left the area and traveled to the Los Angeles area — where she remained until her arrest.

According to court documents, Townsend admitted to the aforementioned details in an interview with investigators.

Phone records revealed Melody had been in regular contact with Ana Marie’s father since her death, according to documents.

In court Friday, prosecutors argued Melody is a flight risk. She was given a $20,000 bond.

Her next court appearance is scheduled for April 26.