An Akron mother broke into a wide smile Wednesday when she learned she was getting her wish — an early release from prison after spending about three months behind bars in the death of her 2-year-old daughter in frigid weather.
Summit County Common Pleas Judge Alison McCarty placed Tierra Williams on probation for 18 months, required her to attend parenting classes and suggested she undergo counseling.
“You suffered a great loss,” McCarty told her. “I’m sure you’ve gotten the message.”
Wynter Parker, Williams’ daughter, was found unresponsive in the cold Feb. 2, 2018, outside the family’s Akron apartment. Williams had left Wynter with Dariaun Parker,the girl’s father, while she was out with the couple’s 4-year-old son. Parker fell asleep and lost track of Wynter on a day when temperatures in Akron hovered between 12 and 19 degrees.
Williams returned home to find Wynter outside and made a frantic 911 call. The girl, however, couldn’t be saved.
Williams was pregnant when Wynter died. While Williams was in prison, her mother cared for the two young children.
Williams, 23, and Parker, 25, who are no longer together, pleaded guilty in November to child endangering, a third-degree felony that carries up to three years in prison.
McCarty sentenced Williams to 18 months and Parker to two years in prison Jan. 25.
The prison sentences sparked outrage among many in the community who questioned whether the penalty was warranted for the parents who already were suffering from the loss of their daughter.
Because Williams was sentenced to less than two years, she was eligible to apply for an early release as soon as she arrived in prison. Parker, who must serve six months in prison before he is eligible, requested an early release but then withdrew it.
Williams wrote a letter to McCarty apologizing for her profanity-laced outburst in court when she learned she was going to prison. Her attorney, Kani Hightower, included the letter with her early release request. Williams begged to be released to get home to care for her two sons.
“I’m ready to get home to my children,” Williams reiterated in court Wednesday.
Hightower pointed to Williams’ minimal criminal record as a reason she should be released early and placed on probation, rather than first being required to go to a halfway house.
Assistant Prosecutor Kevin Mayer deferred to McCarty on this decision.
McCarty said she didn’t intend for Williams to serve her entire sentence. The judge said she wanted Williams to think about the dysfunctional situation that led to Wynter’s death and how neighbors had been called to the couple’s apartment on several occasions when Wynter and her brother were left unattended.
“Because this was such a serious matter, it was important for you to understand your role and duty as a mother,” the judge said. “I was concerned you did not fully address that.”
McCarty agreed that sending Williams to a halfway house wasn’t necessary and said she would be released Wednesday. She urged Williams to talk to her probation officer about counseling, which she thinks would be a good idea.
“It will be helpful for you to deal with the stress and loss you suffered,” the judge said.
Stephanie Warsmith can be reached at 330-996-3705, firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter: @swarsmithabj.