Tooele Transcript Bulletin – News in Tooele, Utah

October 12, 2017
Wendover couple charged in toddler’s death appear in court

The Wendover woman charged in the death of her 15-month-old daughter made her initial appearance in 3rd District Court on Wednesday.

April Dawn Carter, 28, is charged with first-degree felony aggravated murder and second-degree felony obstructing justice. The aggravated murder charge carries a maximum sentence of life in prison without parole.

The child’s father, Nicholas Ray Rutherford, is charged with second-degree felony obstructing justice and misdemeanor abuse or desecration of a dead human body. Rutherford, 28, also made his initial appearance in 3rd District Court Wednesday.

During her initial appearance, Carter was appointed a public defender and bail was set at $2.5 million. The court also ordered Carter to have no contact with any of her other children.

Bail for Rutherford was set at $150,000 and he was also appointed a public defender.

Wendover City police were dispatched to a cardiac arrest at Rutherford and Carter’s residence the morning of Sept. 27, according to a probable cause statement. Officers performed CPR on the 15-month-old 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.

In a full autopsy by the state medical examiner’s office, it was determined the victim suffered multiple rib fractures and bruises on the victim’s head, face, neck, chest, elbows and feet. A spinal fluid sample contained blood, which was consistent with head trauma.

The autopsy also determined the victim showed signs of brain swelling and hemorrhage, the statement said. The medical examiner’s office determined the injuries were not the result of normal childhood development but consistent with severe blunt force trauma.

Investigators noted in the probable cause statement that full custody of the victim had only been awarded to the parents on Aug. 24 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 their drug use; the victim and several of her siblings had tested positive for illegal substances prior to their initial removal from the home.

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