By EMILY WAGSTER PETTUS
JACKSON, Miss. (AP) – A Mississippi father pleaded guilty Friday in the hot car death of his baby daughter but won’t go to prison, under a deal with prosecutors.
Joshua Blunt, 26, pleaded guilty to culpable negligence manslaughter and was given a five-year suspended sentence. His attorney, Carlos Moore, said Blunt agreed to the plea after the prosecutor in Grenada County acknowledged Blunt did not intentionally kill 8-month-old Shania Rihanna Caradine.
The child died last May 19 after being found unconscious in Blunt’s car, where she was left while he worked at a restaurant job in Grenada, a town about 100 miles north of Jackson.
In August, grand jurors in another Mississippi county declined to indict a white mother whose 2-year-old died in a hot car eight days before Shania died.
Moore has repeatedly said he believes Blunt, an African-American, was treated more harshly because of his race. Blunt forgot his baby was in the car, and that’s something that could happen to many parents, Moore said. “There are no winners here,” Moore said in a statement Friday. “A child is dead, Mr. Blunt is a convicted felon, and the state did not get Mr. Blunt behind prison bars as it had so desired prior to today. I personally am sick and happy at the same time.”
District Attorney Doug Evans did not immediately return a call seeking comment Friday, but a court clerk confirmed details about Blunt’s plea and sentence. His trial had been scheduled to begin next Monday. Blunt has been free on bond since five days after his daughter’s death. He originally was charged with second-degree murder, which would entail a maximum sentence of life in prison. In July, a grand jury indicted him on the reduced charge of manslaughter.
Blunt’s fiancee and the mother of Shania, Shanice Caradine, is pregnant, and Moore said Blunt didn’t want to risk facing a possible 20-year prison sentence by going to trial.
Shanice Caradine said in a sworn court statement in August that she did not think Blunt should be charged in the death of their daughter: “I honestly believe that it was a tragic accident.”