Traci Carpenter Must Serve 11/29 For Death Of Daughter Sierra

Monday, June 2, 2014 - by Hollie Webb
Attorney Lee Davis questions Traci Carpenter at sentencing hearing
Attorney Lee Davis questions Traci Carpenter at sentencing hearing
- photo by Hollie Webb

Traci Carpenter was sentenced to four years with the Department of Corrections on Monday afternoon after pleading guilty to child abuse in the 2006 abuse death of her daughter, 18-month-old Sierra Carpenter. Judge Don Poole  said the first 11 months and 29 days must be served in the workhouse, but after that Ms. Carpenter will be eligible for house arrest.

Ms. Carpenter earlier testified against former boyfriend Brian Rutherford, who was charged and tried for the homicide. However, he was not found guilty by a jury.

Ms. Carpenter started dating Rutherford after the tragic accidental death of her first husband, Josh Carpenter, shortly after their marriage. Sierra Carpenter was only two and a half months old at the time.

Ms. Carpenter admitted during her testimony in the Rutherford trial to drug use during this time period. Prosecutors Neal Pinkston and Cameron Williams pointed out that this qualified as prior criminal activity, a potential enhancement to her sentence.

 Defense attorney Lee Davis said, "Yes, there was a period of drug abuse after Josh's death...I don't know what it's like to be 18 years old and have your husband die tragically."

 He said, "She voluntarily went down at the first blush of this case and cooperated with authorities...for the first several years of this case, she was a witness for the state. She cooperated with the prosecution in the Brian Rutherford case."

Attorney Davis also referred back to medical examiner Dr. Frank King's testimony, where he said a non-medical person might not have known the bruises the young girl sustained needed immediate medical attention.

Dr. King said previously, "To a non-medical person or a person unaware of the pattern of contusions, there's no logical reason to think the child would get sicker."

 During the sentencing, the prosecution brought in Josh Carpenter's mother, Janice Carpenter, as a witness.

She addressed the first part of her statement to Ms. Carpenter, saying, "For the past three months, I've written page after page." She said she threw them all out because each attempt only focused on the defendant's "arrogant attitude."

She continued, "If you had not lied...both of our families would not have had to suffer so much." She asked her former daughter-in-law why she would not go before a jury, saying, "I think innocent people don't just plead guilty."

She closed her statement by asking Judge Poole to give the defendant the maximum sentence.

 Melvin and Sue Petty, the defendant's parents, testified as witnesses for the defense.

 Mrs. Petty said, "She was 17 when Sierra was born, 18 when her husband died, and 19 when Sierra died...Traci is a wonderful mother. She loves her baby so much. Traci was a little immature when she had Sierra but she took wonderful care of her. She loved that baby above all else."

 Mr. Petty asked Judge Poole for leniency. He said, "You can't outrun a broken heart...I don't know that any of us will ever get over it."

 Traci Carpenter herself testified as the final witness.

 She said, "I wish so badly I could go back or that I had known what a danger Brian was. I'm full of hurt, regret, anger, and guilt. Guilt because I failed my daughter as a mother. I know she had to wonder where I was and why I wasn't there...I was supposed to protect her from evil - not leave her with it. My heart will always be broken and a part of me missing."

She also told the court, "My life has changed since 2006." The defendant now has a young daughter with her current husband and two stepdaughters.

She said, "I love being her mommy and I vowed to never make the same mistakes...I've learned so many hard lessons in the past 10 years of my life."

Judge Poole said, "All of us I think are horrified at the criminal conduct that happened in regard to this defendant's 18-month-old child."

He said, "The person who did it may have gone free, and that's sad."

However, he said of the defendant, "I don't think she was a very good mother. She can do better, she's young. She has a second chance."

He told her, "You've got a chance in life that a lot of people don't have. You've got a chance to be a wonderful mother to a two-year-old child."


Latest Hamilton County Jail Booking Report

Here is the latest jail booking report from Hamilton County: ANDERSON, BRANDON MONTEZ  3216 GLEASON DRIVE CHATTANOOGA, 37412  Age at Arrest: 22 years old Arresting Agency: Hamilton County FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITY FELONY EVADING ARREST DRIVING ON REVOKED, SUSPENDED OR CANCELLED LICENSE SPEEDING --- BELL, TYRELL LOVELL  2115 12TH ST CHATTANOOGA, ... (click for more)

Portion Of Roof Of Building Next To First Tennessee Pavilion Collapses

A portion of a roof on an old brick building next to the First Tennessee Pavilion by Finley Stadium collapsed on Friday. City public works employees were clearing the rubble and seeking to temporarily stabilize the building. Officials said steps would be taken to have it completely demolished. It was part of an old factory once at the site. The building is jointly owned ... (click for more)

White Coat Syndrome And The Medical System - And Response (2)

Today I wish to share what I am feeling as a patient in our medical system. I am too old to put on airs at this point, and this is too pervasive of a problem for me to contain.   As I enter my AARP years, I am faced with so many medical encounters that evoke all kinds of uncomfortable feelings. I dread physician’s appointments riddled with government regulatory hypocrisy, ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: The Readers Are Right

It is hardly a secret that since I have become intensely interested in public education in Chattanooga, I have tried to read, research and understand how our efforts have fallen horribly short in the last 15 years. We agree we have a crisis on many fronts and I hope it is equally obvious I am desperate for solutions. Much like school board member Karista Jones, I worry that we are ... (click for more)

Morgan, Smith, Parrott Pace Lady Pounders Past Bearettes 6-0

Maybe Central softball coach LeeAnne Shurette won’t nag her Lady Pounders so much in the coming days. Central collected eight hits, including two-run singles by Tatum Morgan and Janara Smith, on Friday to back Brooke Parrott’s three-hitter and the Lady Pounders defeated Bradley Central 6-0 in the East Hamilton tournament at The Summit. “Shurette has been nagging, maybe ... (click for more)

McCallie Earns 3-1 Soccer Win Over Rival Baylor

When his team needed him the most, McCallie senior Drew Viscomi did what he does best. Two minutes after the Blue Tornado allowed an equalizer to rival Baylor in the Division II Mid-East Region soccer match on the Red Raiders’ home field, Viscomi’s strike put his team back on top. Five minutes later, the All-American and school single-season scoring leader ... (click for more)