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."

Many Photos Of Fairyland Development Featured In New Hiener Photo Book

Many photos of the Fairyland development on Lookout Mountain are featured in the new historic photo book being published by Garnet and Frieda Carter carried out the fanciful development in the 1920s. It was during the construction that the game of miniature golf was invented when a golf ball was hit through a drain pipe at the job site. It was first called ... (click for more)

Public's Help Sought In Identifying Theft Suspect

The East Ridge Police Department is requesting the public’s help in identifying the man in the these images. He is a possible suspect in a sleight of hand theft at the East Ridge Neighborhood Walmart on Sept. 18. Anyone with any information relating to the identity or whereabouts of this individual is asked to contact the East Ridge Police Department at 423-486-9141. (click for more)

Bobby Stone, Is It Really A Win?

It brought a smile to my face this morning when I saw where the case was thrown out of court against Mr. Stone and the domestic violence charge.  I have supported his cause from the beginning, but I do feel heartbreak because his personal life had to be tossed out there for all of us to see.   I truly hope and pray things turn around for him and his wife, while I feel ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Prayer Over Despair

As a strong proponent of early voting, I joined hundreds at the Hamilton County Election Commission headquarters on Amnicola Highway yesterday to exercise what I consider one of our greatest freedoms – “for the people, by the people.” Candidly, I have never been as upset or as disappointed over my choices for President in my life. Locally I am fine with our candidates but to pick ... (click for more)

Briarcrest Beats Baylor For D-II Volleyball Title

MURFREESBORO – The 2016 volleyball season didn’t end like the Baylor girls would have liked, but they have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of after getting beat by Briarcrest in the D-II Class AA state final here at MTSU’s Murphy Center Friday afternoon. The Lady Saints had beaten Baylor in a winners bracket final on Thursday and proved it was no fluke as they won in three straight ... (click for more)

Signal Mountain Advances To Class AA State Final

MURFREESBORO – Never accuse the Signal Mountain volleyball team of ever doing anything the easy way. The Lady Eagles, who entered the TSSAA state tournament here as a possible favorite to win the Class AA division, started off the tournament on the wrong foot Wednesday as they lost to defending champ Sullivan South in their first match. They staved off elimination with a 3-0 ... (click for more)