MEMPHIS - The lawyer for a home health aide charged with murder in the case of a disabled Tennessee girl who died from gangrene and infected bedsores said Monday he will dispute his client's liability in the death.
Chasara Jones cried as Shelby County Criminal Court Judge Bobby Carter told her Monday that she could face life in prison or the death penalty if convicted of first-degree murder in the neglect death of 12-year-old Andrea Ruth.
The Millington girl died in November 2012. An autopsy revealed she died from sepsis from gangrene, and prosecutors say her caregivers were to blame.
The girl's father, Errol Johnson, and her mother, Raven Ruth, also have been charged with first-degree murder. All three defendants also face aggravated child abuse charges.
Johnson, 42, and Jones, 41, were being held without bond Monday in Shelby County Jail. Ruth is awaiting extradition in Louisiana, where she was arrested last week.
Prosecutors did not say during Jones' hearing whether they will pursue the death penalty in the case. Some of Jones' relatives who attended the short hearing also had tears in their eyes during the proceedings.
Michael Scholl, Jones' lawyer, said he plans to ask for bond for Jones at her arraignment March 24.
"We're going to dispute a lot of her liability in this case," he said outside the courtroom.
Andrea Ruth suffered from high blood pressure, obesity and asthma, but her medical problems and fragile health were ignored, according to the Shelby County district attorney's office. The condition in Andrea's legs had deteriorated so much that she was scheduled to have both legs amputated in May of 2011 because of gangrene.
The family, however, never showed up for the surgery and missed all later medical appointments, prosecutors said.
Child-protection workers received a call after the girl did not show up for her appointments, according to the Department of Children's Services. DCS arranged for a home health care worker to be there for the girl and presumed that the health care agency was taking care of her, the agency said. There were no other reports of additional problems until she died.
Jones, the home health aide, is said to have told investigators that she was aware of the child's condition, but didn't notify the health care company she worked for or contact police or child welfare investigators.
Johnson, the father, has a hearing March 3 before Carter.