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Video: Mom jumps out window to save unborn baby

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    >>> back now with a pregnant woman 's bravery in the face of unspeakable tragedy. amber carter survived a shooting rampage that claimed the lives of her husband and her 2-year-old son by making a courageous choice. we'll talk to her in a moment. first janet shamlian has the story.

    >> reporter: this is the rural louisiana home where amber carter lost what was most precious to her. in a horrific murder-suicide that made national headlines, her husband dennis and their 2-year-old son mason.

    >> on a scale of 1 to 10 this was the worst i have seen.

    >> reporter: dennis carter, senior, separate and aparted from his wife had been threatening to kill her. he stormed the home where amber and her family lived with donna and made good on the promise.

    >> and then in the next second he fired the gun again and shot her in the head.

    >> reporter: you saw it?

    >> we saw that.

    >> reporter: then carter came after his own son. amber had mason in her arms and they were next.

    >> i'm thinking, this is it. he's going to kill us.

    >> reporter: dennis fired round after round into her and mason, his own grandson, when amber , six months pregnant, summed up all her courage in a move to save her children, leaping from a second-story window.

    >> that is the window that i had to jump from.

    >> reporter: her father-in-law fired a shot into amber 's back as she laid on the ground where, tragically, mason died in her arms. carter killed himself an hour later when stopped by police. when it was over amber lost her mother-in-law, husband and 2-year-old son but there was one life that could be saved -- that of her unborn child . doctors performed an emergency c-section and little baby girl aubrey is fine. amber , however, is partly paralyzed and must depend on her mom for much of aubrey 's care.

    >> a year and a half later, amber is still struggling?

    >> oh, yes. not just physical hardship but the emotional hardship.

    >> reporter: like memories amber cannot erase as her little boy closed his eyes for the last time.

    >> i was the first one to hold him when he came into the world and he died in my arms. so that brought me some comfort after everything.

    >> reporter: amidst a mother's heart break and loss, a beautiful new life.

    >> can you say bye-bye?

    >> bye!

    >> reporter: for "today," janet shamlian , nbc news, springfield, louisiana.

    >> amber carter is here along with her 20-month-old daughter aubrey .

    >> baby?

    >> yeah! hi. i'm looking at two miracles given what you went through.

    >> thank you.

    >> 78 days in the hospital, ten operations, months of rehabilitation. how are you doing now -- physically and emotionally?

    >> that's something that my mother and i joke about. people ask us, well, how are you doing? we used to say, just fine. honestly, we're not at all. physically it's extremely difficult. emotionally, it's sometimes unbearable. financially, it's brought us so much grief. but we have aubrey and she's doing well. you know, that makes us happy.

    >> is it aubrey that keeps you going know you have a little girl you have to take care of?

    >> right. i'm her only parent left.

    >> why did you decide to speak out? what is it that you came here to say today? it can't be easy?

    >> no, not at all. it took almost two years just to be able to talk about it comfortably. we want to make sure that everyone realizes the severity of what happened, the loss that we encountered and that we deal with every day. and the fact that it was a domestic violence situation. my mother-in-law was a wonderful person. she did everything that she was supposed to do. she did it by the book.

    >> she had three restraining orders against her estranged husband, correct?

    >> he violated them.

    >> one order that he violated three times. do you feel that the law in some way let you down?

    >> i do. not the police force . the police officers at home did a wonderful job. they did everything they could. every time we called them out they came. they did everything they could to protect us.

    >> uh-oh!

    >> uh-oh.

    >> the judicial system does not protect wives in domestic violence situations. and the restraining orders aren't worth the paper that they are written on. it's just a legality to take that you are trying to protect yourself. but they had a conflict where he threatened her life and he was only charged with aggravated assault.

    >> then eventually he came back, had the gun and he killed three people. then he took his own life. do you look back on that day and wonder if there is something that might have prevented this or something any of you could have done?

    >> we didn't think he was capable of that at all. no way. no way capable of doing something that extreme and really hurting us that badly. we did everything that we were supposed to do. we called the police every time. we did the right thing.

    >> when you look forward to the future, what do you see?

    >> i get to see my little girl grow up. i hope to find some kind of medical help to get me to be able to walk again and be able to take care of her on my own more and be more independent. i'm just happy to have her here.

    >> we're happy to have both of you here. thank you for sharing with us. there are many people dealing with domestic violence and i'm sure your words are important to them. it's important to get help.

    >> it is very important. don't ever think that someone isn't crazy enough to do something like that. because that's exactly what we thought.

    >> appreciate you being here and all the best to your family.

    >> thank you.

    >> bye, aubrey . we're back after

By
TODAY contributor
updated 5/4/2011 10:57:55 PM ET 2011-05-05T02:57:55

Six months pregnant and clutching her 2-year-old son in her right arm, Amber Carter had a harrowing decision to make as her estranged father-in-law burst into the room with a gun after having already fatally shot her husband and mother-in-law.

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She could either face a man who had violated a protection order from her mother-in-law multiple times and was now carrying through on the threats of violence that he had hinted at for two years — or leap out a second-story window.

“I’m thinking, ‘This is it,’’’ Carter told NBC News. “He’s going to kill us.’’

Carter took eight gunshots to her left leg while straddling the window sill, and her son, Mason, was also hit four times before Carter leaped out the window to try to save her son and her unborn child. She and her son landed on the sidewalk on the side of the house. Her father-in-law, 50-year-old Dennis Carter Sr., then came downstairs and shot her in the back at close range before fleeing the scene.

During that time, 2-year-old Mason died in her arms from his wounds. An hour later, Carter Sr. shot himself during the police chase that followed the shooting spree in which he took the lives of his own son, Dennis Carter Jr., 26, his estranged wife, Donna, 49, and his grandson Mason.

“On a scale of one to 10, 10 being the worst, this was absolutely the worst I have ever seen,’’ Perry Rushing of the Livingston (La.) Parish Sheriff’s Office told NBC News.

Video: Mom jumps out window to save unborn baby (on this page)

But while Carter lost her husband, her mother-in-law, and her young son that horrific day at her mother-in-law’s home in Holden, La., one member of her family was saved. Amber underwent an emergency caesarean section that day and gave birth three months prematurely to her daughter, Aubrey Marie Carter.

That was September 2009. Only now, nearly two years later, is Carter is able to speak comfortably about the rampage that put her in the hospital for 78 days, where she underwent 10 operations that were followed by months of rehabilitation. Partially paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair, she lives with her mother and daughter in Springfield, La., and is unable to work, subsisting on Social Security checks in the face of daunting medical bills.

No protection
Carter said she was appearing on TODAY to point up the failings of a judicial system that did not stop her father-in-law, who had previously been arrested three times for domestic abuse and violating a protection order. In March of 2009, he had threatened his estranged wife with a machete and tried to kill her, according to Livingston Parish police records. A day before his actions made national headlines, Carter Sr. had called his son with another death threat.

“The judicial system does not protect wives in domestic violence situations,’’ Carter told TODAY’s Meredith Vieira. “The restraining orders aren’t worth the paper they’re written on.’’

While holding Aubrey, a healthy 20-month-old, in her lap, Carter admitted that even though her father-in-law had made threats, his eventual rampage still seemed unthinkable at the time. She stressed that the local police “did a wonderful job” — but the failings of the court system allowed her father-in-law to pursue his murderous intent.

“We didn’t think he was capable of that at all,’’ Carter told Vieira. “No way [was he] capable of doing something that extreme and hurting us that badly. We did everything we were supposed to do. We called the police every time. We did the right thing.’’

While Carter put on a brave face on the aftermath of the incident, it still looms heavily in her family’s life. She lives on a 20-acre spread owned by her grandparents where she had planned to move with her husband and children. Her mother is unable to work because she is taking care of Amber and Aubrey.

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Sometimes, Carter said, the only thing keeping her going after having watched one child die in her arms and seeing her mother-in-law murdered in front of her is knowing that she still has a daughter to care for.

‘Get help’
“People ask us all the time, ‘Oh, how are you doing?,’’’ Carter said. “We used to say, ‘Just fine,’ and honestly, we’re not at all. It’s extremely difficult emotionally, and it’s sometimes unbearable financially. It’s brought us so much grief, but we have Aubrey and she’s doing well. That makes us happy.’’

Carter said she hopes to find medical assistance that can help her walk again so she can be more independent and care for Aubrey on her own. In the meantime, she wants her story to serve as a reminder of the threat of domestic violence and the problematic nature of the court system when it comes to that issue.

“It is very important to get help,’’ she said. “Don’t ever think that someone isn’t crazy enough to do something like that, because that’s exactly what we thought.’’

But despite the physical, emotional and financial challenges she still struggles with every day, Carter said she has one great compensation.

“I get to see my little girl grow up,’’ she said.

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