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New details surface in Belmont hacking deaths

Shawn Carter

Shawn Carter

Since the day Priscilla Carter and her son, Tim, were found hacked to death inside their Belmont home, at least one item has remained publicly unaccounted for: the murder weapon.

But at a probable cause hearing yesterday in Laconia, authorities revealed that, in fact, they have it, and have had it since they detained Shawn Carter for driving with a suspended license May 24, just hours after the bodies of his mother and brother were discovered.

This and other new details emerged yesterday in court, where Judge James Carroll ruled there was enough evidence for Carter, 31, to stand trial on charges he murdered 59-year-old Priscilla Carter and 39-year-old Tim Carter.

The information, offered by Sgt. Joe Ebert, a lead investigator and the only person to testify during the hearing, shed light on a grisly homicide case about which prosecutors had previously remained tight-lipped. Affidavits filed for arrest and search warrants are still sealed from public view.

Ebert said the police were first contacted about 11 a.m. May 24 by one of Priscilla Carter’s co-workers, who had driven to Carter’s house on Sunset Drive after noticing she hadn’t reported for work.

Arriving at the home, which Carter was renting with her two sons, a police officer discovered the front door unlocked, and a door behind it ajar, Ebert said. There were no immediate signs of struggle inside. Doors to every room but one were open.

Inside the closed room were Tim’s and Priscilla’s bodies. Both appeared brutally lacerated, Ebert said, though Tim’s was “absolutely more severe” than his mother’s, with 23 apparent chop wounds, including to the head, torso and extremities. His mother’s body was found face-down with nine apparent ax cuts and a stab wound below her left eye.

Ebert arrived at the property about 1:45 p.m., and entered the room. “There was a lot of blood,” he said.

Neighbors told the police that Priscilla Carter’s car, a red Monte Carlo, was not in the driveway and that Shawn was also absent. Minutes later, after issuing a bulletin, they stopped both along Route 3 in Tilton.

They searched the car and found several items, Ebert said, including a knife in the driver’s side door, a map of New Hampshire on the passenger seat, a black duffel bag on the back seat with Priscilla Carter’s wallet inside, and, in the trunk, a yellow-handled ax.

Investigators later found traces of Priscilla’s and Tim’s blood on the ax, as well as on a baseball hat and a hiking boot Carter had been wearing when he was pulled over. His fingerprints were also on the ax, Ebert said.

Carter didn’t appear to have any injuries, Ebert noted.

Prosecutor Jeff Strelzin then asked about the events leading up to the deaths. Ebert said Priscilla Carter had spoken days earlier with Frank Dalton, her landlord, about purchasing some firewood. Dalton told investigators he had offered to sell her some, and was eventually approached by Shawn Carter, who asked where he could get a hatchet. Dalton replied that he would not need one because the wood would come already split, Ebert said.

Dalton’s son told officers he had seen Shawn Carter, and no one else, chopping wood with a yellow-handled ax a day or two before the bodies were discovered, Ebert said.

About 3:30 a.m. May 24, a neighbor noticed lights on in the Carter’s house and saw Priscilla’s Monte Carlo in the driveway. The car was still there about 8 a.m., Ebert said, according to an employee at a marina that abuts the Carter’s property. That was unusual, the employee, James Karr, told the police. But by 10 a.m., he said, the vehicle was gone.

Ebert also said that during the investigation, he made contact with one of Shawn Carter’s childhood friends, Aaron Fournier, who told him the two had run into each other at a Cumberland Farms in Laconia shortly after midnight on the 24th. He said Shawn was driving a red Monte Carlo, and had told him he had stolen it from his mother.

Ebert told the court that he and another officer had viewed video surveillance from the store that night and could see a person who appeared to be Shawn Carter – wearing a similar baseball cap to the one found on him when he was pulled over – enter the store and purchase cigarettes and a map.

On cross-examination, Carter’s defense attorney, Robin Davis, asked Ebert whether the area around the Carters’ home has heavy traffic during the spring and summer – he said he thought it does. She asked whether he thought the officer who had discovered the bodies had reasonable cause to enter the closed room – he said he did. And she asked him whether authorities had reason to believe that either Priscilla or Tim Carter had enemies – Ebert said they did not.

No date was given yesterday for the trial.

(Jeremy Blackman can be reached at 369-3319,
jblackman@cmonitor.com or on Twitter at JBlackmanCM.)

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