North Carolina woman pleads guilty to stabbing 5-year-old daughter to death

Penny Short Hartle, 51, will spend 13-17 years in prison

A North Carolina woman has pleaded guilty and been sentenced in the 2021 stabbing death of her 5-year-old daughter.

Penny Short Hartle, 51, pleaded guilty to second degree murder on Monday and was sentenced to a minimum of 13 years in prison and a maximum of 17 years for the death of her daughter, Caroline Rose, WTVC-TV reported.

Henderson County Sheriff's Office deputies responded to a call on April 21, 2021, of a stabbing incident involving a child. They arrived to find Wayne Cagle, who told officers his 5-year-old daughter had been stabbed in the chest. 

"How could she do this?" Cagle said, adding that he had tried to perform CPR on the child.

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Penny Hartle, 51, plead guilty to stabbing her 5-year-old daughter to death

Penny Hartle, 51, plead guilty to stabbing her 5-year-old daughter to death (Henderson County Sheriff's Office)

When officers asked who he was referring to, Cagle said, "Her mom."

Shortly before officers responded to Cagle's call, officers were dispatched to a house down the street for a 911 report of an unknown woman who had been discovered in a bed there. That woman was later identified as Hartle. 

By the time officers arrived at that house, Hartle had left the residence and entered an unlocked truck across the street.

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200 Block of Fiesta Lane near where the crime took place

200 Block of Fiesta Lane near where the crime took place (Google Maps)

The police report says that Hartle was shaking, mumbling and appeared to be in a diabetic shock when they first engaged with her in the truck. 

Cagle later said that Hartle was his girlfriend of five years, that he had not seen her the entire night and the two had not slept in the same bed in years. He also stated that she was disabled, suffered from mental issues and had not been taking her medication.

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Henderson County Sheriff's Office in Hendersonville, North Carolina

Henderson County Sheriff's Office in Hendersonville, North Carolina (Google Earth)

Hartle reportedly displayed signs of mental illness when she was first arrested, and a judge declared she was incapable of proceeding to trial and ordered her to receive treatment. After months of treatment, it was determined that her condition had improved and was found fit to stand trial.

Several family members testified in court that Hartle loved her daughter and would never have harmed her if she had been in the right state of mind. A plea agreement was eventually reached, allowing Hartle to plead to a lesser charge of second degree murder.