A Carthage woman wants to plead guilty on Thursday to two criminal counts and will be sentenced in November for the death of two-year-old Emalata Hoeft in Carthage on Aug. 28, 2015.

A Carthage woman wants to plead guilty on Thursday to two criminal counts and will be sentenced in November for the death of two-year-old Emalata Hoeft in Carthage on Aug. 28, 2015.

Tearra D. Olson, 22, Carthage, appeared before Jasper County Circuit Judge David Mouton in a hearing Thursday morning and withdrew her plea of not guilty.

According to online court records, Olson told the judge she wants to plead guilty to felony abuse of a child and felony second degree murder.

Judge Mouton deferred accepting or rejecting the plea and Olson will return to court on Monday, Nov. 6, 2017 for a decision and possible formal sentencing after the Board of Probation and Parole prepares a sentencing report.

Olson has been in custody since Aug. 29, 2016 when she and Emalata Hoeft's father, Albert O'Connor, called police and medical responders to report that Hoeft was unresponsive at 8 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 29. 2015.

O'Connor pleaded guilty in August 2016 to one count of first degree endangering the welfare of a child and is serving a seven-year sentence in state prison.

 

Background

Carthage police investigators quickly determined that Hoeft's death was not from natural causes after the call and began investigating.

Olson was O'Connor's fiance at the time of Hoeft's death. O'Connor was Hoeft's biological father and the child's biological mother, Frida Hoeft, lived in Hawaii.

At the time of Emalata's death, Frida Hoeft said she and O'Connor lived in California in 2013 and had a brief relationship that resulted in the birth of Emalata.

The two reached the agreement in April 2015 to share custody of Emalata when O'Connor decided to move to Carthage with Olson.

Frida Hoeft returned to be live with family in Hawaii, and was scheduled to come to Carthage in just a few days to take Emalata back to Hawaii when the incidents leading to Emalata's death occurred.

A few days after Emalata Hoeft's death, the Carthage community reacted with a silent prayer gathering on the Courthouse lawn in support of the child and her family.

 

Investigation

A probable cause affidavit filed by Carthage police investigators in the case against Olson said she told officers she struck the girl's head against a hard surface three times when the child wouldn't stop crying and refused to eat dinner at about 6 p.m. Aug., 2015, the day before the child was found dead.

The affidavit said O'Connor was apparently not home when Olson is alleged to have become violent with the child.

O'Connor pleaded guilty to leaving the child at home alone, locked in a back bedroom, for almost six hours a day on four days immediately before the child's death, with a cup of water when he and his fiancé, Olson, couldn't find a babysitter while they worked.

 

Motion to suppress

On Jan. 27, Olson's attorney, Public Defender Larry Maples, filed a motion to suppress the statements Olson gave to police at the time of the child's death, saying the statements were involuntary and obtained in violation of her Miranda Right to remain silent.

In the motion, Maples says officers' body cameras showed Olson was questioned at the home, immediately after officers were called to the home, for more than 22 minutes in one recording and for another four minutes in a second recording, without her Miranda Rights being read to her.

The motion states that Olson was never told she was free to leave and was told to remain where she was, and that an officer was asking “guilt seeking questions, not just general information seeking questions.”

Online court records show that Judge Mouton was scheduled to rule on that motion on Thursday, but that ruling will be rendered moot if the judge accepts the change of plea.