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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.
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.
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’ – WHOTV.com, 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 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?”
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, 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.”
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.
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.
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.
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 BertrandFuneralHomes.com.
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.