Shirley Carter

Shirley Dene Carter

Shirley Dene Carter

Homicide –> Civil Trial –> Criminal Charges Filed

Shirley Dene Carter
68 YOA
132 Perry Street
Lacona, Iowa
Marion County
Investigating Agency: DCI
Agency Case Number: DCI 2015-033621
Date of Crime: June 19, 2015
Wrongful Death (Civil) Lawsuit Filed: Jan. 5, 2016
Civil Trial Verdict: Guilty – Dec. 15, 2017
Criminal Charges Filed: Dec. 18, 2017, for First-degree Murder


UPDATE: Father vs. Son in Civil Court Leads to First-Degree Murder Charge

Shirley Carter, a 68-year-old grandmother, was shot and killed inside her rural Marion County home on Friday, June 19, 2015. Her husband of 52 years, Bill Carter, wanted to keep his wife’s unsolved murder in the public eye after officials made no arrests, and quickly launched his own investigation.

Mr. Carter and two of his three children filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Jason Carter – Bill and Shirley’s third child – in 2016. Jason, in turn, accused his father in the killing, alleging his mother was unhappy in the marriage and wanted to leave his father.

On Friday, Dec. 15, 2017, a Marion County jury sided with Bill Carter and decided Jason Carter would have to pay $10 million to his slain mother’s estate. Two days later, Iowa officials arrested and charged Jason with first-degree murder.

The information below summarizes the case’s ongoing timeline.

Note: More updates will be added to this case as details unfold.

Marion County

Marion County in Iowa

On Friday, June 19, 2015, Shirley Carter, a 68-year-old grandmother, was shot and killed inside her home in rural Lacona, Iowa, in Marion County. She suffered two gunshot wounds to her back.


Lacona in Marion County

Investigators included the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, the Marion County Sheriff’s Office, the Pella Police Department, the Knoxville Police Department, the Warren County Sheriff’s Office, the Indianola Police Department and the Iowa State Patrol, who obtained many search warrants and county attorney subpoenas to follow-up on any and all evidentiary leads.

Shirley’s husband, Bill Carter, told officials he’d dropped off Shirley at the couple’s 132 Perry Street home after a morning coffee run before heading out to haul corn, which he and son Jason did on contract. Before leaving the house, Bill told his wife of 52 years he’d be home between 11 and 11:30 a.m.

Neighbors in Shock over Shooting Death of ‘Good Grandmother’ –, June 22, 2015

Bill said Jason was 17 minutes behind him in line, and that while Bill went on to haul another load from elsewhere, Jason went to his parents’ house.

In an in-depth Des Moines Register article published a year later on June 20, 2016, Bill recalled how he was returning home in his 18-wheeler semi when his cell phone rang. The caller was his adult daughter, Jana Lain from Centerville, who said she’d just received a phone call from Jason, who’d told her he had found their mother dead in their parents’ kitchen.

After arriving home, Bill said he found his wife’s body on the kitchen floor in a pool of blood, her arms folded across her chest. “It looked like she was sleeping,” he told Register reporter Rekha Basu. “I kissed her.”

Reported the Register:

Shirley had been shot twice through the back. “The first shot took off the bottom of her heart. The second disintegrated her heart,” Bill said. Jason came in from the deck and showed him a bullet hole in the fridge.

Though he has told the story countless times, Bill Carter still cannot tell it without sobbing so convulsively he can barely speak. By all accounts, he and Shirley were devoted to each other. They’d been married more than 50 years, 48 of them in that farmhouse.

~ Des Moines Register, June 20, 2016

The county sheriff arrived at the home just moments after Bill, and asked Bill to leave the house; the home ended up sealed for several days.

Bill and Shirley CarterCourtesy WHOTV Channel 13, Des Moines
Shirley Carter was shot twice in the back at this rural Lacona home in Marion County, Iowa, on Friday, June 19, 2015.

Bill said that because he wasn’t allowed to look around, he couldn’t see that drawers in the office and bedroom had been pulled out, their contents dumped on the floor. Nothing, however, appeared taken; investigators found Shirley’s purse, containing credit cards and $140, undisturbed, as was an envelope on the dresser containing $1,700 in $100 bills.

Bill told the Register he wasn’t allowed to check his safe in the basement, where he kept the gun Jason had given him, to see if it was missing.

Officials said the perpetrator shot Mrs. Carter sometime between 7 a.m. and noon, and law enforcement requested the public’s assistance in identifying any people or vehicles in the vicinity of the home during that time period.

Law enforcement also said they were interested in speaking with any person who may have been approached to either purchase or take possession of a rifle in and around Marion County or surrounding communities since June 19, 2015.

Investigators said they didn’t believe the public was in any kind of danger, but the words did little to calm neighbors’ nerves.

I don’t know what to think about it,” said neighbor Kyle Phillips in a June 22 WHO-TV Channel 13 interview. “A woman is dead and they say don’t worry?”

Shattered Relationships

As the year passed, Bill’s grief morphed into frustration, despair and suspicion, the Register said.

The following events occur in the year following his wife’s murder:

  • Bill provides officers with bullets previously fired from the rifle, and they match those recovered from Shirley’s body.
  • Bill says law enforcement assure him early on — at least three times — that an arrest is coming soon.
  • Bill makes two suicide attempts.
  • Bill accuses officials of bungling evidence-gathering and says those facts will come out in a trial and implicate the officers.
  • Bill concludes there will not be an arrest without public pressure, and spends $160,000 to hire an attorney and a private investigator.
  • The results of the attorney and private investigator lead Bill to file a wrongful death suit against his son, Jason.
  • Bill alleges his son used the rifle from the basement safe to kill his mother, hiding the gun on the property and then retrieving it days later before authorities realize it is missing.
  • Bill accuses law enforcement of not collecting Jason’s clothing and boots, which might have shown the position of gun powder and blood, until 10 days after the crime.
  • Bill suggests a conflict of interest between his son and Marion County Sheriff Jason Sandholdt, who are friends.
  • Sandholdt declines to respond but says an active investigation is under way and he’s very confident an arrest will be made “when the DCI, my office and the attorney general’s office all feel a jury would convict who we charge.”
  • Bill claims Jason failed a lie detector test given by the DCI and sheriff’s office.
  • Jason’s name is excluded from his mother’s headstone.
The Civil Suit

Bill, along with his other two remaining children, filed the wrongful death lawsuit against Jason on January 5, 2016, naming Jason as the killer.

More Than 100 People Turn Out for Shirley Carter Rally – WHOTV Channel 13 report, Jan. 15, 2016

“The reason we decided to file is because we were afraid there wouldn’t be any justice for Shirley,” Bill told KCCI Channel 8 in a June 21, 2016, news report.

The Iowa DCI said investigators had conducted 200 interviews and followed up on 100 leads in the year since the murder and called the investigation “still active.”

Photo by Rodney White/The Register
A photo of Shirley and Bill Carter at his home in rural Lacona, Thursday, June 16, 2016. His wife Shirley was murdered at their home a year ago June 19. There have been no arrests yet in the case.

According to a number of published news reports, Bill Carter based the allegations against his son on a combination of potential motivations and circumstances. Jason, he said, was having financial troubles and had $5 million worth of family farmland to gain. Bill also said Jason had been having an extramarital affair and that Shirley became aware of it and may have confronted Jason.

Bill said he hadn’t known about his son’s affair until after Shirley’s death.

On March 6, 2016, the family’s attorney, Ron Danks, subpoenaed Shirley’s autopsy results and the 911 call made by Jason the day of Shirley’s murder. According to news reports, the Marion County Sheriff’s Office on March 29 filed a motion to quash the subpoena, saying the release of the 911 call by Jason Carter would be detrimental to the ongoing investigation.

Courtesy photo WHO-TV Channel 13, Des Moines
Bill Carter told WHOTV he still loves his youngest son but has to have justice for his wife, Shirley.

A Marion County judge agreed to release both the autopsy and 911 calls, but only to both parties involved and no outside third parties. The judge also ordered that details of the 911 call not be discussed in public or with anyone not directly involved in the case.

Bill Carter said he still loves his youngest son, but “I have to have justice for Shirley. I have to.”

Jason Carter — represented by attorney Steve Wandro — continued to deny all allegations of any involvement in his mother’s homicide.

The wrongful death civil suit was scheduled to begin in Marion County on April 3, 2017, and expected to last about three weeks.

On Friday, Dec. 15, 2017, a Marion County jury sided with Bill Carter and decided Jason Carter would have to pay $10 million to his slain mother’s estate.

Two days after the civil trial verdict, Marion County officials and the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation brought Jason in for booking after Jason was charged and arrested for first-degree murder in his mother’s death.

In a press conference held Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2017, in Des Moines, Bill Carter said he still loves his son but can’t forgive him.

About Shirley Carter

Shirley Dene Carter was born June 10, 1947, in Des Moines, Iowa, the daughter of Carroll Worthington and Jean (Shoemaker) Worthington.

Shirley Dene Carter Tribute by Bertrand Funeral Homes

She grew up in the Pleasantville area and was united in marriage to Bill Carter on March 31, 1963. The couple has always farmed in the Lacona and Pleasantville areas. Shirley was the consummate farm wife and worked side by side with Bill. The couple raised their three children on the farm, and with the kids grown, Shirley cherished her role as grandma. She had a gentle spirit and a kind heart that always found the good in people.

Shirley passed away on Friday, June 19, 2015, at her home at the age of 68 years.

Shirley’s survivors included her husband of 52 years, Bill; children: Jana (Dee) Lain of Plano, Iowa, Billy Carter of Ankeny and Jason (Shelly) Carter of Knoxville; grandchildren: Sean Gordon, Chase Carter and McKenna Carter; father, Carroll Worthington of Pleasantville; brother, David Worthington of Des Moines and many other family members and friends.

Shirley’s mother, Jean, and a brother, Jeff Worthington, preceded her in death.

Photo by Rodney White/The Register
The gravesite for Shirley Carter in the Pleasantville Cemetery Thursday, June 16, 2016. Bill Carter has filed a wrongful death suit against his youngest son, Jason Carter.

Casket bearers included Sean Gordon, Chase Carter, Jason Carter, Billy Carter, Dee Lain and Ifo Atagi.

The family conducted a private funeral service with burial following in Pleasantville Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggested memorials be made to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital or to Iowa Public Television.

Mason Funeral Home of Pleasantville handled arrangements. Online condolences may be left at

Information Needed

If you have any information about this unsolved homicide, please contact the Marion County Sheriff’s Office at (641) 828-2220 or file a report anonymously through Crime Stoppers of Central Iowa at (515) 223-1400.


6 Responses to Shirley Carter

  1. C says:

    They got married when she was 15??

    • Jody Ewing says:

      C, yes — according to Shirley’s obituary, she was just a couple of months shy of 16 when she and Bill married. It wasn’t all that uncommon back then, particularly if the parents gave consent. Many of these “young newlyweds” also stayed married for the rest of their natural lives. It’s a wonderful thing seeing couples who’ve been married 50, 60, and sometimes even 70 years.

      • Linnette Castillo says:

        Thank you for clarifying this, Jody. It’s not surprising “C” focuses on her age at the time of marriage. Billy G Carter was 16, just a class ahead of Shirley.

        The uncommon fact is that he worked while finishing high school through half days at the school and the remainder via correspondence to earn his high school diploma and working full time as a butcher and driver to support his young family. He received an ACT score of 29, and turned down college scholarships to be with his young wife.

        Shirley and Billy were still happily married after 52 years, successfully farming and raising their family against all odds.

        As Jody said, the young marriage was not uncommon at the time, but there are also many failed marriages and unwed mothers. The Carters were the exception to the rule due to love, hard work, and the unique ability to stay real, honest, good people, and perseverance.

  2. KP says:

    I think there is an editing error. The family name switches to Clark towards the end of the posting.

    • Jody Ewing says:

      KP, thanks for catching that. I found two instances where I’d inadvertently typed the name Clark instead of Carter, and have fixed both of them. So glad you brought this to my attention. All best to you.

  3. Mary Hart says:

    M’Thinks Bill Carter protested too much boo hooing over Shirley’s death. Neighbor said he was extremely controlling over even smallest things. While son Jason was said to have a good relationship with his mother, and besides which, how could he inherit farm if only his mother and not father was dead.

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