Mother who pleaded guilty in daughter's death arrives late for sentencing

Hearing postponed until Tuesday as a result

By Kumasi Aaron - Reporter/The Morning Show anchor

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A woman who was scheduled to be sentenced in her daughter's death failed to show up on time Friday and now will be sentenced Tuesday.

Tara Carter arrived about 15 minutes late after a judge issued a warrant for her arrest and revoked her bond for not being in court.

Carter pleaded guilty to child neglect in the 2011 death of her 4-month-old daughter. Investigators said she removed the baby's oxygen tube and now faces up to 15 years in prison.

It's unclear why she was late for her hearing, but she wasn't arrested.

"When you lose somebody, the thing that gets you through it is to cling to what you have. "You know, to live for what you have," Carter said in January 2011, just days after her daughter Sandra died. "I don't have anything."

Carter said she removed Sandra's oxygen tube to give her a bath, something she said doctors told her was OK. But doctors told the Department of Children and Families the mask should have never been taken off.

"I was giving her CPR right there, giving her CPR, looking for my phone," Carter said at the time.

Months later, prosecutors charged Carter with manslaughter, and in August she pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of child neglect with great bodily harm.

Failing to arrive on time for her sentencing Friday is something Professor Rod Sullivan of Florida Coastal School of Law says has consequences.

"In Florida, failure to appear at a sentencing for a felony is a very serious matter because it's another felony," he said. "And it could be an additional five years on your prison sentence."

The state attorney's office said Carter eventually showed up, and the court decided to recall the warrant and restore her bond.

Although this turned out not to be a case of fleeing, Sullivan said it's always a risk.

"Any time anybody is facing a serious criminal sentence like this, you have to wonder whether or not they're going to flee rather than face the charges," he said. "I think that's a risk that we take every time we grant somebody the opportunity to be released on a bond."

Carter's family did not want to comment at their home Friday.

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