published Tuesday, December 6th, 2011

Hamilton County child neglect case trial of Traci Carpenter rescheduled

Traci Carpenter leaves Criminal Court Judge Don Poole's court after her pre-trial on Nov. 15. Carpenter, who is suspected of child neglect, is currently pregnant.
Traci Carpenter leaves Criminal Court Judge Don Poole's court after her pre-trial on Nov. 15. Carpenter, who is suspected of child neglect, is currently pregnant.
Photo by Alex Washburn /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

The aggravated child neglect trial of a 24-year-old mother has been moved to June.

The trial against Traci Carpenter was expected to start today but has been moved to June 5, 2012.

Hamilton County Criminal Court Judge Don Poole had not ruled on motions filed by Executive Assistant District Attorney Neal Pinkston and defense attorneys Lee Davis and Bryan Hoss as of Monday.

“We would have preferred to go to trial,” Davis said after the hearing. “Obviously, a case like this is very stressful on my client and her family.”

But Davis said the motions are important and that he understands the need for Poole to look at them closely.

The motions include an effort to limit evidence shown to the jury, including autopsy photos of the victim, 18-month-old Sierra Carpenter, and recorded conversations between Carpenter and her then-boyfriend Brian Rutherford.

Rutherford was tried and acquitted of aggravated child neglect and first-degree murder in the April 27, 2006, death of Sierra.

Rutherford has not been listed as a witness for either side in Carpenter’s case. Davis said the defense is not calling Rutherford because, despite his acquittal, they believe he is guilty. Carpenter is innocent, Davis said, because she could not have prevented Sierra’s death.

“The state can call him if they want to. I wish they would,” Davis said.

Pinkston said he could not comment on a pending case.

The June trial date was the first on the calendar that was clear for both the attorneys and Poole. Davis also said that, since Carpenter is pregnant and due in late January, he would prefer not to have her on trial in the month after her delivery.

On April 25, 2006, Rutherford brought Sierra to the Dallas Bay Fire Department when the child was having breathing problems. Sierra was taken to Erlanger hospital, where police photographed multiple bruises on her head, neck, face and inner thighs while she was being treated.

Hamilton County Medical Examiner Frank King testified that the injuries that killed Sierra likely happened two to three days before she died.

Poole previously ruled that testimony from Rutherford’s trial alleging that Carpenter abused Sierra will not be allowed in her trial.

Contact staff writer Todd South at tsouth@timesfree press.com or 423-757-6347.

about Todd South...

Todd South covers courts, poverty, technology, military and veterans for the Times Free Press. He has worked at the paper since 2008 and previously covered crime and safety in Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia. Todd’s hometown is Dodge City, Kan. He served five years in the U.S. Marine Corps and deployed to Iraq before returning to school for his journalism degree from the University of Georgia. Todd previously worked at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. Contact ...

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