Man accused of killing pregnant woman in northwest Fresno hit-and-run enters not guilty plea

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Kenneth Carter entered a not guilty plea Tuesday during a virtual court appearance.

Two days after his arrest, the alleged hit-and-run driver posted a $12,000 bond and was set free.

But Tuesday, the deputy district attorney said the crime is too egregious for a standard bail amount.

Autum Frank was left lying in the street at Marks and Swift in northwest Fresno after the sunset in early August. The expectant mother and her unborn baby both died.

RELATED: Loved ones remember pregnant woman hit and killed by driver in northwest Fresno

Witnesses said a red SUV was speeding northbound before the fatal encounter.

"The defendant hit a pregnant woman as she was crossing the street and he did not slow or stop and continued to drive away," says Julie Flickner.

Tuesday, Carter didn't say much. His attorney said he's waiting on the discovery and also conducting his own investigation.

The deputy district attorney reminded the court that the defendant never returned to the scene and it took 24 minutes for him to call police after the crash.

"He later pulled to the side of the road because he could not drive any further," Flickner said. "His ex-wife came and picked him up from the scene, where he said he had struck a medium-sized dog.

"He wasn't trying to avoid the incident," says Johnny Griffin, Carter's attorney. "He contacted law enforcement and advised them. So I think bail is appropriately set."

The request to raise bail was denied. He's facing two felony counts of vehicular manslaughter and hit and run, along with a misdemeanor for driving on a suspended license.

Legal Analyst Mark Broughton says the case could have been more punitive had Gavin's Law passed the senate public safety committee.

If the bill had become a law, it would have made the punishment up to six years for a single felony count of leaving the scene of a deadly crash.

"This would be an interesting case if Gavin's Law had passed because I think this would have been one that would fit right in with that, the way that statutory scheme was meant to be," Broughton said.

The bill fell one vote short of passing that committee in mid-August.

No matter what, Broughton said even if Carter thought he hit a dog, he still had a legal obligation to stop.

"It certainly establishes that he had a duty to stop whether he thought he hit a person or a dog," he said.

Based on the current charges, if Carter's found guilty, he could spend five and a half years in the county jail. But he could also receive as little as probation.
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