Mom gets probation in son's death

Carol Carpenter

SAN LUIS — Carol Carpenter, 71, Blanca, was placed on eight years supervised probation for negligence causing death in the starvation of her disabled son, Corey, 27, whose body was found by law enforcement on Oct. 23, 2015.

A tiny woman, under five feet tall, she was living in a trailer on the side of Mt. Blanca and had opted to take care of her disabled son herself, despite some offers of help, and eventually found herself unable to make him eat. Corey ultimately starved to death.

Telling 12th Judicial District Judge Pattie Swift the provable facts, since trial would not take place, 12th Judicial District Attorney Crista Newmyer-Olsen began, “Corey Carpenter was a human being who died a horrible death.”

While he was attending high school as a younger man, there were no issues, he ate and seemed to enjoy social interaction until his father passed away, she told the judge. Reports provided at a preliminary hearing suggested Corey had basically lost interest in life after his father, Wallace “Buck” Carpenter, died on March 10, 2012.

After that death, Corey inherited the property and his mother sought to become conservator, which added to her responsibilities.

Following a subsequent evaluation, it was recommended that Corey receive social services.

Carol did not cooperate with caseworkers and other persons seeking to assist her.

She lost a son, both prosecution and defense attorneys advised the court.

Newmyer-Olsen said, however, “In this society, we don’t turn a blind eye to someone in trouble… Carol Carpenter had a responsibility to care for Corey. She didn’t do so.”

“He literally starved to death.”

Public Defender James Waldo presented a power point recording of the 9-1-1 call Carpenter made alerting law enforcement to her son’s final condition.

He said, “Carol said she was guilty of not doing something (for Corey).” He died and “she didn’t want that to happen.”

If time could be turned back, Waldo told the court that Carol would have her son back and seek help.

The fact that Corey’s death was not a result of deliberate acts on his mother’s part led to dismissal of a charge of first-degree murder after deliberation by the district attorney on Nov. 14, 2018, along with a charge of violent crime causing death.

A plea made the same day was withdrawn and Judge Swift found Carpenter guilty of negligence causing death of an at-risk person.

Carpenter admitted guilt, Waldo said. He recommended a probation evaluation and treatment, noting that would provide counseling and help.

He said, however, that the cost of probation would seriously affect Carpenter’s income and asked that it be waived. While Corey was alive, she struggled to pay his costs and that struggle continues in her own life.

Addressing the judge, Carpenter’s only audible words were, “I’m horrified.” She then wept while trying to explain herself as the judge listened intently.

Preparing to levy the sentence, Judge Swift said, “I have to say, you had your son with you…” She didn’t manage his care and “something horrible transpired.”

Still expressing horror, the judge said, “There is no reason this should have happened… You should have gotten help.”

“I do not understand how you let this happen.”

Corey was found motionless on the floor of the Carpenter residence on Oct. 23, 2015. He seemed to be malnourished, with his eyes sunk into his head. “He was gray in color; his skin was like plastic,” said deputies who responded to a 9-1-1 call that day.

Carol reportedly told them Corey had “been down” a couple of days. The last solid food she saw him eat was a tomato.

Around the time of his death his mother said he was drinking vitamin water and taking vitamins.

When healthy, he weighed 145 pounds. He was short, not much taller than his diminutive mother, but began to lose weight when he chose only to eat favorite foods.

Corey weighed 57 pounds and had bones protruding from his skin when his body was stripped for an autopsy.

Recalling this, Judge Swift said, “What happened is beyond unbelievable to me.”

Beginning her sentencing statement, she told Carpenter, “You’re not going to get Corey back.”

In levying probation, she said Carpenter has been interacting with people and in the community, but that’s not enough. She will be in the care of friends and family and will be expected to keep all her appointments and completely comply with requirements set forth after the probation evaluation.

“I will not waive costs at this point,” she said. “You can seek a waiver later if you are complying with all requirements.”

A probation review will take place April 24.

Carpenter has been free on a $50,000 appearance bond and has complied with all court requests. She was sentenced for a Class 5 felony.