LACONIA — One of the lead New Hampshire State Police homicide detectives testified yesterday at Shawn Carter's probable cause hearing that his mother, Priscilla Carter, 59, died from 10 separate wounds — nine that appeared to blows from an ax and one that could have been a knife wound, under one eye. She had been stomped or kicked repeatedly and had multiple broken bones.
His brother, Timothy Carter, 39, died from what Det. Sgt. Joseph Hebert said were 23 chop wounds. Both were found in the same room at 20 Sunset Drive in the Winnisquam section of Belmont, a room he said appeared to be Timothy Carter's bedroom.
Shawn Carter, 30, formerly of the same address, is accused of allegedly chopping them to death between 10 p.m. on May 23 and 2 a.m. on May 24 according to Hebert's recounting yesterday of what he was told by the coroner.
Hebert's testimony was taken in 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division in front of Judge Jim Carroll.
Shawn Carter was apprehended near his home, on Rte. 3, around 2 p.m. on May 24 — about three hours after police found the bodies and within a few hours from when they issued a be-on-the-lookout-for alert for him. The BOLO, recalled Hebert, contained information that Carter was likely driving his mother's red Monte Carlo and his drivers license had been suspended.
After getting a search warrant for the car, triggered by what police said was a knife in plain view in the map pocket of a car door, a yellow-handled ax similar to the one Shawn Carter bought at Walmart the week before the murder was found in the trunk. Police also recovered an atlas (map), and a black duffle bag in the back seat containing men's clothing, a second knife, and what Hebert said was a woman's wallet that police determined was Priscilla Carter's.
He was wearing work boots that Hebert said had human blood evidence on one of them. There was also blood evidence on the ax and on the hat he was wearing at the time of his arrest. He also said that most of the blood in the room belonged to Timothy Carter although blood belonging to Priscilla Carter was also found.
Carter was initially charged with operating without a license and, after being held for seven weeks on $200 cash-only bail, was convicted in the 6th Circuit Court, Franklin Division at a trial in early July. He was charged with the homicide on the day of his trial for operating after suspension.
Yesterday N.H. Senior Asst. Attorney General Jeff Strelzin questioned Hebert, who said that when Belmont Police Officer Patrick Riley responded to a call to the home made by a co-worker who was concerned for Priscilla's well-being, he found Priscilla and Timothy Carter and they were "obviously deceased".
Taking those in the courtroom through the steps, Hebert said the door from the breezeway was "ajar" and "unlocked" and there were no obvious signs of forced entry.
Herbert said Riley's report indicated he entered the home after knocking and identifying himself. He said all of the doors to various rooms were open except one. He said he looked in all the open doors and neither saw nor heard anything.
Hebert said when Riley opened a bedroom door he made the gruesome discovery. There was a considerable amount of blood in the bedroom including "splatter," said Hebert, but there was no other blood, signs of disturbance, or criminal activity in the house other than what was in the bedroom.
Hebert said the medical examiner reported the bodies were not "manipulated" very much and, when asked by Carter's defense lawyer Robin Wight-Davis, he said he was "fairly confident" Riley didn't see the stab wound in Priscilla Carter's face who, he said, was found face-down.
"There was massive trauma," he said.
He said he didn't know if anyone else at the house saw the apparent stab wound and said a different state police detective was the first to notice it. He said fire personnel were called but he didn't think they disturbed the bodies.
Hebert was also questioned about the medical examiner's report, the initial state of the bodies, and information about Carter's arrest. He testified about some witness statements and a surveillance tape that showed someone purported to be Carter at Cumberland Farms convenience Store on Court Street in Laconia just after midnight on May 24.
Hebert said the man in the surveillance was wearing a light colored cap that was very similar to the one Carter was wearing when he was arrested. Hebert said there were a few spots of on it that tested positive for human blood. He couldn't be sure if Carter was wearing the same clothes when he was stopped by police as the person who he said is Carter was wearing on the surveillance tape from the store. He bought, according to Hebert, cigarettes, gas and a map. He also said Carter appeared to have trouble with the gas pump.
Investigators interviewed a man who allegedly saw Carter at Cumberland Farms who knew him. Hebert said the man told him Carter said he had "stolen" his mother's car.
Yesterday's much anticipated probable cause hearing was attended by about 15 of Priscilla Carter's friends or family, who sat together in the last two rows of the court house. Many could be seen wiping away tears as Hebert revealed details of the slaying under Stelzin's direct examination.
A probable cause hearing is not a trial and the typical rules of evidence are not relevant, meaning hearsay or what another person told police is allowed.
Strelzin's objective, which he accomplished, was to present Judge Carroll with just enough information so that he could determine there was cause to justify Carter's arrest and the state could continue to hold him without bail.
Davis succeeded in getting a preliminary glimpse into some of the state's evidence before actual discovery, a few of their witnesses accounts, their alleged time line, and the location and condition of the house. She called no witnesses of her own.
The next step is for Strelzin to present his case to a Belknap County grand jury for possible indictment. The next grand jury is scheduled to sit in late August although it is not known if the case will be presented then.