A trial date has been set for the Wendover woman accused of killing her 15-month-old daughter in September 2017.
April Dawn Carter, 30, is charged with first-degree felony aggravated murder. She pleaded not guilty to the charge last November; a second-degree felony charge of obstructing justice was dismissed without prejudice at the same hearing.
During a pretrial conference Tuesday, Carter’s defense asked to schedule a jury trial. Third District Court Judge Matthew Bates set the five-day jury trial for Oct. 28 through Nov. 2, with a final pretrial conference on Oct. 9 at 10 a.m.
The victim’s father, Nicholas Ray Rutherford, 32, is charged with second-degree felony obstructing justice and misdemeanor abuse or desecration of a dead human body.
Wendover City police were originally dispatched to a cardiac arrest at Rutherford and Carter’s residence the morning of Sept. 27, 2017, according to a probable cause statement. Officers performed CPR on the victim but suspended lifesaving efforts once it was apparent the child was deceased.
An officer noticed bruising on the victim’s body and documented the injuries before securing the residence to preserve evidence, the statement said. Investigators obtained a search warrant and four children were removed from the home and placed in the care of the state Division of Child and Family Services.
Carter said the victim may have been injured by hitting her head on a coffee table or when Carter tripped and fell, possibly landing on the child, the probable cause statement said. Rutherford told police he came home from work to find Carter holding the child, whom she said was not breathing.
Rutherford said Carter refused to call 911 and he attempted to resuscitate the child but did not call first responders, due to confusion from sleep deprivation, the statement said.
The medical examiner’s office completed an external exam of the victim the following day and documented bruises on the victim’s head, face, neck, chest, elbows and feet. A spinal fluid sample contained blood, which was consistent with head trauma.
During the full autopsy, the medical examiner’s office determined the victim suffered multiple rib fractures, including five on the left side and three on the right side, the statement said. The fractures appeared to be healing and were not consistent with injuries sustained from CPR.
The autopsy also determined the victim showed signs of brain swelling and hemorrhage. The medical examiner’s office determined the injuries were not the result of normal childhood development but consistent with severe blunt force trauma.
During an interview with police following the autopsy, Carter said she tripped and fell on the victim but provided no further explanation, the probable cause statement said. Rutherford said Carter told him she planned to confess but did not give him details on what she meant.
Investigators noted in the probable cause statement that full custody of the victim had only been awarded to the parents on Aug. 24, 2017, after a trial home placement organized by the state Division of Child and Family Services.
The victim had been removed at birth from the parents due to drug use; the victim and several of her siblings had tested positive for illegal substances prior to their initial removal from the home.