A Chattanooga mother pleaded guilty Wednesday to child abuse in connection with her 18-month-old daughter's death. When sentenced, Traci Carpenter could spend the next four years behind bars.
Carpenter was originally facing an aggravated child neglect charge. Now, she's facing a much lower charge of child abuse.
It's been a terrifying and painful 8-years for Janice Carpenter. Her granddaughter, Sierra, was only 18-months old when she died back in April of 2006.
"It is emotional because she's denied it for so long, for so many years, and now she's admitted to it, that she's guilty," says Janice Carpenter.
Doctors say Sierra suffered severe abuse caused by a massive brain injury. Janice believes the child's mother -Traci - should face a murder charge -- but she's still relieved.
"It's like why didn't this happen years ago, why didn't you plead guilty then, instead of putting our families through this for so long," says Janice Carpenter.
Janice's son - Josh - and the father of Sierra, died a year before his daughter was killed.
"It something that never ends, it never goes away, and we're looking forward to closure on it," says Janice Carpenter.
Traci was staying with her boyfriend Brian Rutherford when Sierra died. In 2008, Rutherford was found not guilty on murder charges. But, Traci maintained during his trial that she was innocent.
Family members say moving forward will be tough.
"It's going to be hard to forgive and it's going to be hard to forget, but at least both families can move on after such a hard time over these past 8 years," says great uncle Patrick Hickey.
On Wednesday, prosecutors and Carpenter's attorney had no comment.
Carpenter is due in court for a sentencing hearing on May 19th.
You can depend on NewsChannel 9 to let you know what happens.
By Jerry Askin