Jurors Find Rutherford "Not Guilty" in Abused Child's Death - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Jurors Find Rutherford "Not Guilty" in Abused Child's Death

Reported by Mark Bruce
Eyewitness News Reporter/Anchor

CHATTANOOGA (WRCB)  In about two hours, jurors returned Not Guilty verdicts in favor of Brian Rutherford.  Rutherford mouthed the words 'thank you' to jurors after they acquitted him of Felony Murder and Aggravated Child Abuse in the 2006 death of 18 month old Sierra Carpenter.

Traci Carpenter and her family openly wept as the verdict against her former boyfriend was read.  Outside the courtroom Carpenter screamed "they let a murderer get away."

Rutherford's family felt much differently.  Brian's father said justice was done and thanked jurors for their decision.

"My son's always told the truth," said Rick Rutherford.  "It's over for us but I'm sorry it's just beginning for the other side.  We can put this behind us."

Defense attorneys believe the case was weak from the start.  They said detectives bundled the investigation and that Rutherford shouldn't have faced charges in the first place.

"This should have never been a witch hunt," said Attorney Myrlene Marsa.  "This should have been the search for the truth.  The truth came out and we're happy."

Prosecutors admit the case was a difficult one as are most cases of violence against a child.  But the State still believes they pursued the right person.

"These cases are important and even if proof isn't there, you have to try them," said Assistant District Attorney Leslie Longshore.  "I wouldn't try someone that I didn't think did it."

Traci Carpenter is due in court next month.  She faces one count of aggravated child neglect.  Prosecutors said they likely won't upgrade her charges.

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