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Belmont man accused of murdering mother, brother convicted of driving charge

Shawn Carter was taken into custody after his mother and brother were found dead in Belmont last month, charged with driving after his license was revoked or suspended and being held on $200 cash bail. He appeared in Franklin's district court on Tuesday, June 11, 2013.

(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

Shawn Carter was taken into custody after his mother and brother were found dead in Belmont last month, charged with driving after his license was revoked or suspended and being held on $200 cash bail. He appeared in Franklin's district court on Tuesday, June 11, 2013. (JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

The Belmont man accused of killing his mother and brother in May was convicted yesterday of driving on a suspended license, the charge that kept him behind bars from shortly after the bodies were found until prosecutors charged him with murder Tuesday.

During the hearing at Franklin’s district court, two Belmont officers testified that they pulled over Shawn Carter on May 24 because the police had issued a “be on the lookout alert” warning he could be armed and dangerous. That alert, they explained, was issued because two of the three people that lived at 20 Sunset Drive were dead inside the home.

The third – Carter – was missing. And a car registered to Carter’s mother was also gone, they said.

Judge Edward Gordon decided yesterday that those facts gave the police sufficient probable cause to issue the alert and gave the officers the right to pull over the vehicle when it was spotted on Route 3 in Tilton shortly after. Gordon, in making that determination and ultimately finding Carter guilty of driving on a suspended license, rejected the argument made by Carter’s lawyers that the state hadn’t proven the deaths were suspicious or that the police had any specific reason to believe Carter had committed a crime.

State law enforcement officials believe they have such information; the attorney general’s office charged Carter with murder Tuesday after filing several sealed affidavits in the case in Laconia’s district court.

Officials from that office who are handling the homicides, though, have refused to acknowledge the connection between their investigation and the charge that kept Carter off the streets while they carried it out.

Yesterday, Carter’s attorneys attempted to highlight that connection, saying the driving charge should be dismissed because the prosecutor hadn’t provided a sufficient explanation for why the alert was issued. Attorney Jesse Friedman has asked for that information – including police reports from the officers who issued the alert – in several recent court hearings. Following one of those hearings, Gordon issued an order requiring the state to “provide information with regard to the basis for Mr. Carter’s stop.”

Friedman said yesterday that instead he has only received police reports from the officers who carried out the traffic stop.

But prosecutor Ryan McFarland said he’s handed over all of the reports he has, as well as dispatch logs explaining why the Belmont police responded to the home. Gordon agreed that information was sufficient because McFarland had turned over everything in his possession.

After the hearing, McFarland said the reports Friedman and his co-counsel Eric Wolpin are seeking, from the officials who issued the alert, are likely under the possession of the attorney general’s office because they pertain to the homicide investigation.

Carter yesterday was given an inconsequential sentence of 15 days at the Belknap County jail, a term he’s already served since his May arrest. The judge waived a $620 fine for time served.

While prosecutors will often drop lesser charges when they are trumped by more serious felonies against the same person, McFarland said the state didn’t want to do that in this case because Carter was held on $200 cash bail on the driving offense for nearly two months, independent of the homicide investigation.

“He was held on it,” McFarland said. “He deserved the right to confront the evidence against him in court.”

On Wednesday the state police also dropped a charge filed against Carter last month for selling drugs to an undercover officer. According to the complaint, the incident happened more than a year ago. No explanation was given in court about why the charge was dropped.

Carter is scheduled for a probable cause hearing July 22, where a judge will decide whether there is enough evidence for the murder cases to be presented to a Belknap County grand jury. Prosecutors have charged him with four counts of second-degree murder that account for the prosecution’s two theories of what his mental state was at the time of the murders: either knowing or reckless. The charges indicate that the police don’t believe the crime was premeditated.

According to the charges, 59-year-old Priscilla Carter died from chop wounds to her head and blunt impact to
her “trunk,” while 39-year-old Tim Carter died from chop wounds to his head, torso and extremities.

(Tricia L. Nadolny can be reached at 369-3306 or
tnadolny@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @tricia_nadolny.)

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