Mother in fatal dog mauling of toddler son gets probation
SAN DIEGO (CNS) – A Navy wife whose 2-year-old son was mauled to death
by a dog while she was in a drunken stupor in their Tierrasanta home was
sentenced Thursday to five years probation.
Valerie Grace Carlson, 30, was also ordered by Judge Laura Halgren to
complete a one-year jail term. Between time served and good behavior credits,
she has already spent the equivalent of 313 days behind bars since her arrest,
leaving her with only about a month to serve.
If she fails to complete probation, she will be imprisoned for eight
years for her “inexcusable conduct” on July 31, 2010, the judge said.
Carlson, who has three other children, pleaded guilty in June to four
counts of child endangerment, one of which carried an allegation that her
toddler son, Aaron, suffered fatal injuries.
According to court documents, paramedics were called to the family home
in Tierrasanta at 11:33 a.m., and they rushed Aaron to Rady Children's
Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
“I failed as a mother — I know that,” Carlson told the judge.
Deputy District Attorney Fiona Khalil said the family took in a rescue
dog that was “hyper” around children, and the defendant would put it in a
crate when she went to bed but didn't this time because “she didn't feel like
it” after drinking.
“Aaron was left alone to deal with this dog while his mother was drunk
on the couch downstairs,” said Khalil, who called the defendant a longtime
Carlson was not arrested until this year, but her remaining three
children were taken away while she had counseling with child welfare agencies.
Two representatives of those agencies testified at the hearing that
Carlson had made excellent progress under their watch.
Marnie Hutcherson, of Crisis House, said she has had only one other
client do as well as the defendant. Becky Lanier, of county Child Welfare
Services, said the woman went “above and beyond what the agency wanted her to
Both witnesses, as well as the defendant's husband, said Carlson
interacted well with her other children, who live with family members in
Colorado. In fashioning the sentence, the judge cited the need for the
youngsters to be reunited with their mother.
Halgren also noted that a Juvenile Court judge granted her unsupervised
visits before she was arrested, which she called “remarkable” under the
According to court documents, San Diego police Detective Cindy Brady
said the left side of Aaron's face had been torn off and he had no skin in the
middle of his face. The child's nose and cartilage were gone.
The victim's three siblings were in the home at the time and their
father was away on deployment, according to the detective.
Valerie Carlson told detectives she had a friend visit her home the
night before and drank four to five Jim Beam bourbon and Coke drinks, starting
about 9:30 p.m.