By Diana Hefley Herald Writer
TULALIP — The trial of a Tulalip woman whose young daughter died of neglect has been rescheduled for later this year in part to give the defense more time to explore whether Christina Carlson has mental health issues.
Carlson is charged with second-degree murder for the death of her 19-month-old daughter Chantel Craig. The toddler and her older sister, 3, were all but abandoned in a car on the Tulalip Indian Reservation in October.
They were buckled in their car seats for hours. The girls had sores all over their bodies and were covered in feces, lice and maggots. Investigators believe they likely had gone days without food or water.
Chantel wasn’t breathing when paramedics reached her. An autopsy determined that she suffered from severe malnutrition. Her sister was treated for dehydration and skin sores for prolonged exposure to feces and urine.
Along with murder, Carlson, 37, is charged with two counts of criminal mistreatment. She faces a minimum 30 years in prison if convicted as charged.
Carlson pleaded not guilty to the charges in May.
Her federal public defender last month requested additional time to prepare for trial.
The investigation into Chantel’s death includes more than 3,000 pages of reports and numerous video and audio files.
Carlson also has been undergoing a neuropsychological examination. So far, a doctor has determined that Carlson has a low IQ, her attorney wrote. The defense also plans to have a doctor, who specializes in fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, examine Carlson.
“Given the severity of the charges in this case, and the need for assessment of competency and mental health issues, additional time is needed,” federal public defender Paula Deutsch wrote.
Deutsch wrote more time will allow her to conduct an investigation and “possibly negotiate a resolution short of a trial.”
Carlson now is scheduled to go to trial on Nov. 12.
Prosecutors allege that Carlson withheld basic necessities of life from her children. In the hours before Chantel died, Carlson allegedly was sending text messages, attempting to buy drugs, court papers said. Witnesses reported seeing Carlson smoking heroin days earlier in the car while the girls were in the backseat.
Tests conducted on the older girl’s hair showed evidence that the child had been exposed to opiates.
Carlson and the girls had for months been the focus of on-again, off-again searches by state and tribal child welfare workers. Their grandmother called Child Protective Services in December 2011 with concerns that the girls were being neglected.
Carlson had lost custody of at least three other children because of her drug use and neglect, court papers said.
In a terrible coincidence, state social workers closed the investigation hours before Chantel died. They hadn’t been able to find her or Carlson. The woman and her daughters had for weeks been living in her car down a dirt road on the reservation.
Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463; firstname.lastname@example.org.