Mitchell woman pleads guilty to manslaughter for stomping 5-year-old to death, faces 22 years in prison

With Julia Carter’s recent diagnosis of bipolar disorder and depression, a professional psychologist said Carter was “impaired” while she was stomping and kicking the boy.

Julia Lee Carter was 21-years-old in June 2020 when she was arrested and charged with second-degree murder and child abuse in connection with the death of a 5-year-old child. (Mugshot courtesy of the Davison County Jail)

A Mitchell woman who was charged in the killing of a 5-year-old boy changed course Monday and pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter as part of a plea agreement that would sentence her to serve 22 years in prison.

During Monday’s hearing at the Davison County Public Safety Center, Julia Carter, 23, reversed her previous not guilty plea to one of the charges she was facing for repeatedly stomping on the abdomen area of a 5-year-old boy that caused his death on June 23, 2020.

While Carter was also charged with second-degree murder — for what Davison County State’s Attorney Jim Miskimins characterized as a cruel and unusual act to the boy — which carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison, she opted to plead guilty to first-degree manslaughter as a mentally ill individual.

Judge Chris Giles accepted the plea agreement that was recently reached between Carter and state prosecutors. If Giles follows the sentence recommendations of the plea agreement at Carter’s Feb. 1, 2022, sentencing hearing, she would be given a 40-year prison sentence in the women’s state penitentiary with 18 years suspended. The first-degree manslaughter charge Carter pleaded guilty to is a Class C felony, which carries a maximum sentence of up to life in prison.

“The plea does appear to be reasonable. It is clear to the court that Ms. Carter suffered from a severe mental illness at the time of the incident,” he said.


An autopsy revealed the boy died from blunt force trauma to the abdomen area of his body. According to an arrest affidavit, Carter admitted to “kicking” the boy in the stomach five times and “stomping” him in the abdomen once during an interview with investigators.

After Carter kicked the victim, she took him to Avera Queen of Peace hospital where medics performed life-saving measures. He was pronounced dead shortly after he arrived at the hospital, court documents say.

Carter’s attorney, Chris Nipe, called on a professional psychologist to testify during Monday’s hearing and explain the basis behind Carter’s mentally ill state at the time of the violent and deadly incident. Brooke Laufer, a clinical psychologist based out of Evanston, Illinois, recently evaluated Carter and diagnosed her with bipolar, post-traumatic stress and post traumatic depression disorders.

“The diagnosis of bipolar is a significant diagnosis. In addition to the psychotic features, it’s a substantial diagnosis that affects human thought,” Laufer said.

With Carter’s diagnosis of bipolar and depression, Laufer said Carter was “impaired” while she was stomping and kicking the boy. It wasn’t until after kicking the victim that Laufer said Carter knew she had done something “wrong.”

“She was impaired. At the moment of the offense, she was not aware of right and wrong until after it happened,” Laufer said of Carter’s mental state at the time she killed the boy.

During the hearing, more details of the incident that led to the death of the 5-year-old boy surfaced. Nipe said Carter “kicked” the boy in the abdomen “five times” and “stomped” him. However, Nipe said Carter “did not mean” to cause the death of the boy during the incident.

While Carter was scheduled to face a jury trial for the charges stemming from the killing of the young boy, her change of plea eliminated the need for a trial.


A new charge was recently brought against Carter for allegedly assaulting a corrections officer at the Davison County Jail where she has been held in custody since June 2020. Court documents allege Carter spit on a corrections officer during a Sept. 16 cell check.

For the assault, she was charged with assault by bodily fluids on a corrections officer in a county jail, a Class 6 felony, which is punishable by two years in prison, a $4,000 fine or both. Under the terms of the plea agreement, the assault on an officer charge would be dismissed.

Carter has been held in custody at the Davison County jail since the June 2020 incident took place.

Judge Giles ordered a presentence investigation report to be conducted prior to sentencing Carter at 3 p.m. on Feb. 1, 2022, which he said will provide an opportunity for the late victim’s family members to submit letters on the sentencing recommendations.

Sam Fosness joined the Mitchell Republic in May 2018. He was raised in Mitchell, S.D., and graduated from Mitchell High School. He continued his education at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion, where he graduated in 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in English. During his time in college, Fosness worked as a news and sports reporter for The Volante newspaper.
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