COUNCIL BLUFFS — Prosecutors lobbied questions to Bill Carter for several hours Thursday building up his marriage to Shirley Carter, and his alibi.
Meanwhile, the defense used their cross-examination in an attempt to impeach Bill Carter. They also spent time Thursday attempting, unsuccessfully, to persuade the Judge to allow them to introduce evidence and testimony about alleged domestic abuse between Bill and Shirley Carter.
Jason Carter is accused of killing his mother Shirley Carter on June 19, 2015, at her rural home in Lacona. While he and his father were scrutinized by law enforcement, a civil suit was brought first against Jason Carter by his father Bill Carter.
The trial was moved to Council Bluffs due to publicity after that civil suit and verdict. Bill Carter prevailed in the lawsuit and two days after the jury’s verdict law enforcement filed charges for murder against Jason Carter.
In the days after the death of his wife of 52 years, Bill Carter began to believe his son is who killed her.
That wasn’t always the case, however. Thursday, he recalled feeling angry after the media reported the public was not in any danger. Bill Carter believed that seemed to imply they felt family perpetrated the killing, specifically either himself or Jason Carter.
“That made me mad, angry. I was telling [county attorney Ed Bull], and the sheriff and Mike Motsinger, the head of DCI at that time, I said, ‘I have a good family.’ I said, ‘This didn’t happen within my family.’”
In the midst of his anger, he said, he repeated what Jason Carter had told him: That Shirley Carter was cold and stiff.
But Bill Carter said she wasn’t. At the scene, he touched her body three times. She was cold, but he was able to lift her head up to kiss her on the forehead
He was just angry and taking it out on the three leading the investigation, he said.
About three years prior to Shirley Carter’s death, a nearby methamphetamine lab was busted and the nearby public was told to lock their doors and keep a lookout, Bill Carter remembered.
“The boys that were running it took off into the timber. And we all got phone calls to look our doors and be on the lookout. And then my wife is laying there dead, and they say, ‘Don’t worry about it.’”
HIGH SCHOOL SWEETHEARTS
On June 19, 2015, Bill Carter’s life changed. His wife of 52 years lay dead, on the kitchen floor of their home.
“They say your life can change in an instant,” Bill Carter said. “It did. It changed, and it’ll never be the same.”
Bill and Shirley Carter were high school sweethearts. They were inseparable. Over their marriage of more than half a century, Bill Carter said Thursday they only spent one night apart during a ski trip to Colorado that he took.
Shirley Carter was not just a farm wife. She took more than her fair share of household chores, Bill Carter said. About 90 percent of them.
When it came to farming, Shirley Carter did not follow Bill Carter — often times she led him.
Shirley Carter was a farmer, an emotional Bill Carter testified. Work on the farm was split 50-50 between them.
She would till the ground, and he’d follow with a planter.
Together they had three children.
DAY OF THE MURDER
June 19, 2015, started off much like any other day did at the Carter household.
Shirley Carter woke Bill Carter about 6:30 p.m. They shared breakfast, and then made a trip to a Casey’s at nearby Milo, Iowa for coffee.
They went back home, and he dropped Shirley Carter off at the base of the driveway. Bill Carter went to a nearby farm to grab his semi full of grain to take it to Cargill in Eddyville.
Bill Carter said he left his home around 7:45 a.m. to drive to get his semi parked north of Pleasantville. He arrived at Eddyville at 9:01 a.m., records from Cargill presented earlier in the trial show.
His corn was dry and there wasn’t a line ahead, so things proceeded more quickly than normal.
“Things had went so well, I decided to go back what we call the long way and take Highway 5 and I wanted to get me a coffee and a donut at Casey’s in Lovilia,” Bill Carter said.
He used the restroom there as well. Marion County Attorney Ed Bull admitted his receipt from that Casey’s visit into evidence. The purchase was recorded at 9:54 a.m. that morning.
Then, he decided to go back to where he keeps his grain and semi and reload for his haul the next morning. He did that, a process that takes about 45-50 minutes, and then closed up shop, loaded into his pickup truck, and headed back home.
He was about 3.5 miles away when he got a call from his daughter, Jana Lain. Shirley Carter was dead. Jason Carter would not call 911, she said.
Bill Carter hung up the phone and called 911 while speeding ahead for the last stretch toward home.
When he arrived, he saw his wife’s truck in the driveway. The burn barrels on the property were burning. Jason Carter was on the deck talking on the phone.
“I didn’t even stop, I just went running in the house,” Bill Carter said.
He found his wife laying on the kitchen floor, her hands crossed.
Away from the jury, the defense yet again attempted to convince Judge Brad McCall to allow the introduction of alleged domestic violence between Bill Carter and Shirley Carter.
The oldest children by the couple, Jana Lain and Billy Carter, both testified previously outside the jury’s presence this week, to witnessing abuse in their childhood. They’ve also made similar statements in depositions.
Defense attorney Christine Branstad argued today the jury isn’t getting the complete picture of their marriage after hearing Bill Carter’s testimony today.
“It paints a picture of abuse over eight years,” Branstad argued. “Significant abuse.”
She added that it is unlikely the abuse stopped when the witnesses left.
Bull argued on behalf of the state that the alleged abuses would have happened 38 years or more ago, and aren’t relevant to the crime at hand. McCall fell in line with that stance, stating that evidence is yet to be introduced that would establish why the alleged abuses are relevant for the jury to hear.
Bull also said Jason Carter told police in interviews his parents had a loving relationship and he did not witness any abuse, other than a time when Shirley Carter threw a vase at Bill Carter.
SHIRLEY SHOT TWICE IN HEART
A forensic pathologist testified Thursday that Shirley Carter had two gunshot wounds that led to her death.
One went from armpit to arm pit across her body, the other went into her chest near the sternum.
Dr. Jonathan Thompson with the state medical examiner’s office said the two shots caused significant damage to Shirley Carter’s heart and fractured multiple bones. They were consistent with high-power rifle shots.
One of the shots hit Shirley Carter’s aorta.
The defense offered an exhibit that showed what may have been fly eggs in Shirley Carter’s nose. Yet there was not much testimony to this, as the state asked questions about it to Thompson only for the defense to object because Thompson wasn’t a forensic anthropologist.
Interrogation videos are expected to be reviewed with witnesses for the state Friday. Bull told McCall at the close of Thursday’s court hearing that the state intends to rest their case tomorrow.
The defense may begin offering testimony Friday, or next week. The trial has proceeded quicker than what was originally estimated, McCall said Thursday.
Testimony will resume at 9 a.m. Friday.