By Scott North, The Herald
TULALIP — A Tulalip mother could spend a minimum 30 years behind bars if convicted as charged in the Oct. 8 neglect death of her young daughter.
A federal grand jury in Seattle on Tuesday indicted Christina D. Carlson with second-degree murder and criminal mistreatment charges. Her arraignment is scheduled May 23.
Federal prosecutors allege that Carlson, 36, all but abandoned her 19-month-old daughter Chantel Craig and her other daughter, 3, in a parked car on the Tulalip Indian Reservation.
Chantel was found dying in a car seat, covered in feces and lice. An autopsy determined she was dehydrated and suffered from severe malnutrition. The older girl also suffered from lack of care and malnutrition.
In the hours before Chantel was found, Carlson allegedly was sending text messages, attempting to find drugs, according to court papers. Tests conducted on the older girl’s hair showed evidence that the girl had been exposed to opiates.
Carlson and the girls had for months been the focus of on-again, off-again searches by state and tribal child welfare workers.
An investigation by Tulalip Tribal Police and the FBI determined Carlson and her children had been living in the car since mid-September. The car was tucked out of the way, down a dirt road on the Tulalip Indian Reservation.
The indictment mirrors charges federal prosecutors sought when Carlson’s case was transferred from tribal court in January.
If convicted as charged, Carlson faces a mandatory minimum 30 years in prison for her daughter’s death, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Seattle.
The criminal mistreatment charges are punishable by up to a decade behind bars.
Federal prosecutors allege that Carlson withheld basic necessities of life from her children. She allegedly told police she hadn’t changed the girls’ diapers in four days because she had run out. Police found a full package of unused diapers in the car’s trunk.
The case already has undergone a review by a team of experts who by law were required to examine the circumstances surrounding Chantel’s death. The panel offered recommendations, but found no “critical errors” on behalf of state Child Administration employees.
Since 2001, the Tulalip Tribes have assumed jurisdiction over criminal matters on the reservation involving Tulalip members and other people who belong to federally recognized tribes.
Federal authorities also have jurisdiction on tribal land to investigate and prosecute more than a dozen major crimes, such as murder, rape, manslaughter and felony child abuse or neglect.