An Akron mother was outraged Friday morning when she learned that she and the father of her children were heading to prison for the death of their 2-year-old daughter, who was found unresponsive in the cold last February.
“That is so f----- up!” Tierra Williams, 23, shouted as a Summit County sheriff’s deputy put handcuffs on her wrists.
“Stop, Tierra!” Angela Williams, Tierra’s mother, admonished from the gallery.
“I’m so f------ mad!” Tierra Williams said as a deputy led her from the courtroom.
This was the dramatic ending to the emotional sentencing of Williams and Dariaun Parker, Williams’ ex-boyfriend.
Parker, 25, and Williams pleaded guilty last November to child endangering, which carries a penalty of up to three years in prison. Both were hoping for probation, while prosecutors urged prison time.
Summit County Common Pleas Judge Alison McCarty sentenced Parker to two years in prison and Williams to 18 months. She told both she will consider releasing them early.
Williams found her daughter, Wynter Parker, unconscious Feb. 2 outside the family’s Willow Run apartment near the Goodyear Airdock and made a frantic call to 911.
“She’s frozen! She’s frozen!” Williams told the dispatcher.
Williams, who was pregnant at the time, told police that she left Wynter with Parker for about two hours while she was out with their 4-year-old son.
Parker lost track of Wynter on a day when Akron’s temperatures never rose higher than 19 degrees.
The parents broke up after Wynter’s death, though they have been splitting custody of their two other children under the supervision of Summit County Children Services.
Angela Williams, Tierra’s mother, begged McCarty to give her daughter probation. She said her daughter is a good mother who made “one bad decision” and has suffered enough.
“We need to heal as a family and not be pulled apart with her being gone from her kids and her family,” Angela Williams said.
Assistant Prosecutor Dan Sallerson, however, pointed out that this wasn’t the first time that Akron police had been called to this couple’s apartment because of their young children being left outside unattended. He said Parker was up all night, and the family had breakfast on the morning of Wynter’s death before Williams left with their son.
“This is a dangerous situation that didn’t need to happen,” he said. “It shouldn’t have come to that. We do have a young child who died as a result. We do think prison is the appropriate sentence.”
Kani Hightower, Williams’ attorney, acknowledged that Williams made a mistake when she left Wynter alone with Parker, knowing that he hadn’t gotten any sleep, but said she did all she could to help her daughter when she found her outside. She said Williams wrapped her daughter in blankets, called 911 and cooperated with police and later prosecutors.
Hightower said Williams entered into a voluntary plan with Children Services and took every step they asked.
Similarly, Don Malarcik, Parker’s attorney, said his client cooperated with police and prosecutors and agreed to plead guilty to avoid a trial. He said neither parent was engaged in criminal activity that contributed to Wynter’s death.
“This is a family that has been torn apart,” Malarcik said. “It’s time to heal this family and move forward.”
“I take full responsibility …” Williams said, unable to continue.
“It was a tragic accident,” Parker said. “I’ve learned from it. I can’t talk right now …”
McCarty said the couple found themselves in a dysfunctional situation, with Parker up all night recording music in a studio for a career for which he wasn’t yet being paid and Williams working during the day cutting clients' hair at their homes and unable to take two young children with her.
“That needed to be resolved,” the judge said. “That’s an untenable situation.”
McCarty said when people have children, taking care of them needs to become their most important duty, but this wasn’t the case with Williams and Parker. She said 2-year-old children who are left unattended can get into lots of dangerous situations, like walking into a pool and drowning or drinking something poisonous.
“There can be potential danger everywhere,” she said. “You two did not have eyes on. Not a lack of love, a lack of attention. Not all of the time, but some of the time, which put both of the children at risk.”
McCarty said she was particularly bothered by how police had been called to the home by neighbors several times. She said the young girl’s death was a loss for everyone.
Williams and Parker were so emotional they had trouble speaking.
“We’ve lost a human life and the potential that she would have had — the joy she would have brought to family and friends,” the judge said. “This is all loss. It is this loss I feel compelled calls for consequences.”
Stephanie Warsmith can be reached at 330-996-3705, firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter: @swarsmithabj.