Carder gets 16 years for child neglect
13 years will be served in prison; 3 years on probation
Tuesday, August 23, 2011 11:00 AM
A Hanover woman will spend 13 years and 11 months in prison for neglecting her 2-year-old son, which authorities said resulted in her boyfriend pulling two teeth from the child's mouth.
HEADED TO SENTENCING: Jessica Carder is escorted to the Jefferson County Courthouse for her sentencing in Superior Court on Monday. (Staff photo by Ken Ritchie)
Jessica L. Carder, 22, received a 16-year sentence in Superior Court for neglect of a dependent, a Class B felony. Three years of Carder's sentence will be suspended to probation. A Class B felony is punishable by six to 20 years in prison.
Judge Alison Frazier said the aggravating circumstances far outweighed the mitigating factors, which increased the sentence from the 10-year advisory sentence. An advisory sentence is a sentence specified in state law before aggravating and mitigating factors are considered.
"I think if a parent saw their child in that situation, they would run, not walk, to seek medical attention," Frazier said before announcing the sentence.
Frazier said Carder's failure to seek medical attention for her child after the teeth were pulled was an aggravating factor in her decision.
The other aggravating factors were Carder's attempts to cover up the crime and protect her boyfriend, Andrew Richards; the fact that the crime occurred with a victim younger than 12; lingering emotional and physical harm done to the child; and Carder's continued drug use.
Despite the prosecution's urging against any mitigating factors in the case, Frazier found a few. Carder pleaded guilty to the crime, avoiding what Frazier said would be an "extremely expensive case to try," given all the expert witnesses who would be required to testify.
Carder's remorseful attitude during the sentencing hearing, her age and the fact that she obtained her GED after dropping out of high school were also mitigating factors considered in the sentencing.
During Monday's four-hour sentencing hearing, the prosecution entered photos of Carder's son from his medical exam into evidence. It was the first time Carder saw the full impact of what had happened to her son.
"The second she started looking at those photos and noticed the ramifications of what happened to her child, she began crying," said Jennifer Joas, Carder's defense attorney.
Carder was arrested Dec. 23, 2010, at her home on Ten Cent Road in Hanover. Richards, 28, was arrested at that time. Allegations from a state police investigation were that Carder and Richards used a pair of pliers to pull out two teeth from the mouth of Carder's son, Karl Ray Andersen, who was 2.
Karl is currently in the custody of his paternal grandparents. The child's father, Karl Roy Andersen, was sentenced to 11 years in prison, with four years suspended, in September 2010 after being convicted of using stolen controlled-substance prescription slips to purchase and sell pills.
Carder received a deal from the prosecution to plead guilty to neglect of a dependent in exchange for testimony against Richards. Richards is scheduled to go to trial at the end of September. Part of Carder's plea deal contains a clause that says she cannot appeal her sentence.
An investigation began after Karl's grandparents found he had two teeth missing and had several bruises and scrapes on his body.
Child abuse case
Rick Stockdale, an Indiana State Police detective who investigated the case, was the first witness called by the prosecution. While talking to investigators, Carder's story changed several times, Stockdale said. At first, Carder said she awoke at 4:30 a.m. to find Karl holding a pair of pliers and pulling at his tooth, Stockdale said. Carder told Stockdale she struggled to take the pliers away, and Karl's tooth came out as a result.
Stockdale said the story changed to Karl's tooth being almost entirely out when Carder and Richards pulled it out without any struggle.
Then, Stockdale said Carder said she came out early in the morning to find that Karl had already pulled his own tooth out. Stories also changed between the tooth being pulled out and the tooth being knocked out after Karl fell while playing.
Stockdale said the medical report suggested the victim would have gone through "extreme pain" during the tooth removal. He added that it would have taken a tremendous amount of force to remove the teeth.
Stockdale said there would be no way Karl would have been able to pull the teeth out of his mouth on his own.
When Prosecutor Chad Lewis questioned Carder about the change in story, she said she had no idea what was going on at the time because she was under the influence of drugs the night of the incident.
"I didn't have the truth. So I made something up," she said.
Lewis asked why Carder didn't leave the house after Richards pulled the tooth out. Carder said Richards had threatened to kill her if she told anyone. Lewis continued to push the issue, asking why she didn't call for help or simply leave.
Every time, she answered that she was afraid of Richards, who she said had verbally and physically abused her in the past.
Lewis asked why she didn't go to the police to get protection from Richards if she was so afraid. "I didn't know they could do that," she said.
Laurel Wahl, a family case manager with the Department of Child Services, said Carder and Richards had been under investigation twice before. The first case, Wahl said, was for alleged drug use in early 2010. Wahl said Carder tested positive for methamphetamine and marijuana.
The second investigation was in the fall of 2010 for bruises that appeared on Karl's arm, Wahl said. Carder said that bruise appeared when Richards had a seizure while picking up Karl, causing his grip to tighten.
Doctors told Wahl this was a plausible way for the injury to occur, leading to the report being unsubstantiated.
Frazier acknowledged that Carder had a history of criminal activity, but since most were misdemeanors, it did not weigh much in the sentencing. Lewis said Carder had nine offenses in a two-year period. The most recent is a battery charge against another inmate at the Switzerland County Jail, where she has been lodged since her arrest.
Tracy Spencer, a member of the Prescription Drug Diversion Unit with the state police, said Carder and four other people were arrested in 2009 after an investigation revealed they stole prescription pads from King's Daughters' Hospital and obtained controlled substances. Their scam spanned 15 counties in two states and they obtained drugs with a street value of $46,570, Spencer said.
The night of the incident, Carder said, Richards had had six to eight Oxycontin pills throughout the day. She testified that she took some Oxycontin - she didn't remember exactly how many, but said it was fewer than six - one Percocet pill and two tablets of Xanax, and that she also drank some methadone. She attributed this drug use to the reason she had difficulty remembering the night of the incident.
This was not an isolated incident of drug use. Carder testified she had been using prescription pills and marijuana since she was 14. She said she used drugs occasionally at first, "but after a while, I needed them." She said she became addicted to pills at 16 and started a 10-month stint using methamphetamine.
Carder became pregnant during her senior year in high school. She said that was why she dropped out of school, but also why she stopped using drugs.
She made it through her pregnancy without using drugs, but started taking pills shortly after the pregnancy ended. Carder said Karl was delivered in an emergency C-section because of his declining heartbeat. As a result of the surgery, she was started on a painkiller regimen.
Carder has been drug-free since being incarcerated, and she said she is feeling better. She said she wanted to undergo substance abuse treatment while incarcerated. Frazier agreed, and added substance abuse treatment to her sentence.
Lewis had witnesses testify about Carder's character to attempt to increase her sentence. Karl A. Andersen, the victim's paternal grandfather, read a prepared statement for the court about what these events have done to his family.
"When my wife told me what happened to him, I couldn't stop crying," he said.
Andersen said his grandson had nightmares every night after the incident, but those have been reduced to just once a week. Karl also has been going through therapy as a result.
"Jessica Carder does not care one bit about her son. She only cares about herself," his letter continued.
Bonnie Andersen, the victim's paternal grandmother, said Carder used to sneak out of the house while they all lived together. She said Carder used to hit Karl frequently and used to yell at him. Carder said she never hit her son and said it was not true they had altercations.