Jury convicts man of Carter murder
Published 10:39 pm Wednesday, December 2, 2015
A jury on Wednesday found Katron Shawndell Walker guilty of murder and other charges and recommended a sentence of 62 years of incarceration.
Walker, 33, was the shooter who killed 82-year-old Donald Carter Sr. outside his East Washington Street furniture store on Sept. 22, 2014.
The jury heard evidence Monday afternoon and all day Tuesday after spending Monday morning being selected. Included in the evidence was a three-hour audiotape of a police interview with Walker, which included Walker confessing to being the shooter and naming others he said were involved.
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“This case is about greed,” Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Will Jamerson told the jury in his closing argument Wednesday morning. “This case is about obtaining things that don’t belong to you and the consequences of those actions. This case is about this 82-year-old man killed by somebody young enough to be his grandchild.”
A prosecution witness, A’unique White, said she was with Naomi Nichelle Lambert and others that night, walking on St. James Avenue, when Carter drove past. He picked them up nearby and took them to Taco Bell.
He paid with plastic, but Lambert had her eyes on the cash in his wallet, White said.
“She said, ‘Ooh, this is a lick,’” White said of Lambert, using street slang for a robbery.
The group drove to Truman Road to drop off one of the girls, who had school the next day, White said. They then went to Carter Furniture on East Washington Street, where they sat at a table and talked. White said Carter offered liquor, but she didn’t partake.
Lambert asked to use the phone and then told White, “Leon and them are outside,” White testified. Phone records show a call made from the store at 12:27 a.m. that lasted 89 seconds.
White testified that Carter walked her and Lambert out. White said she took off running as soon as she got outside.
“It came to my head,” she said. “I didn’t know what was about to happen.”
As she was running down an alley next to the store, she saw someone in the bushes, but she couldn’t say who it was. She then heard male voices in a confrontation and heard two gunshots.
She ran all the way back to the home Lambert and Leon Hayes shared on St. James. When the entire group reconvened, Walker was there.
“Leon kept asking him why did he shoot Mr. Carter,” White testified. “He said because Mr. Carter stuck his fingers in his eyes.”
A citizen on a bicycle flagged down a police officer and showed him the body. When another officer arrived, he couldn’t feel a pulse, but Carter gasped for air, the officer testified.
Elizabeth Kinnison, the medical examiner, said Carter died of a gunshot wound to the abdomen that went through his small intestine, pancreas and aorta — the body’s largest blood vessel — and lodged near his spine. The second bullet grazed his left chest, possibly deflected by a notebook and a number of other papers in his shirt pocket, which were found with a bullet hole in them. There were no injuries to Carter’s hands, she testified.
Suffolk Police Sgt. Isaac Lopez testified that Leon Hayes said he got the gun from Walker, wrapped it in a cloth and stuck it in the crawlspace of an abandoned house on St. James Avenue, where police found it. Six rounds had been chambered, and two had been fired.
In his taped confession, Walker told Detective William Shockley that Carter had resisted the robbery attempt.
“He took a swing at me,” Walker said after admitting he had been trying to rob Carter. “The second time he reached for my face. He poked me in the eye. It all happened so fast.”
Walker named Lambert and Hayes, saying Hayes was the one who got him involved in the scheme.
The defense presented no evidence or testimony whatsoever during the trial.
The jury deliberated for about two hours before finding Walker guilty of first-degree murder, attempted robbery, two counts of use of a firearm in the commission of those crimes, and conspiracy.
Before the jury decided on a sentence, Carter’s brother, David Carter Sr., and two of his three children, Don Carter Jr. and Beth Carter Brown, testified about how the loss has affected them, their family and the community.
“His life was worth something, and somebody took it away from him, stole the years he had left,” David Carter said. He reminisced about how his brother, 12 years his senior, taught him how to swim and fish and helped teach him how to drive. They were friendly competitors in the furniture business, he said.
“It never interfered with our family,” Carter said. “We always loved each other.”
Don Carter Jr. worked with his father in the family business. He said the loss of his father has been felt not only by his family but also by the entire community.
“Hundreds of people came by and told us how much they miss him,” he said. “He loaned money with no expectation of ever getting it back. The town itself will miss him. We’re truly at a great loss.”
Brown spoke at length about how the death affected her mother, who had already suffered health issues and the death of her own brother in the month prior to her husband’s murder.
“It’s not difficult to understand how the people of Suffolk have gathered around my mother,” Brown said. “We were just beside ourselves with grief, but we all knew Daddy would want us to take care of Mom.”
Her mother had a stroke in June, which she said the doctor attributed at least partly to the stress of losing her husband.
“It felt as if there was not enough space in my head to grieve for Dad when Mom needed us so much,” Brown said. “It is heart wrenching to lose my father, but to lose him to senseless violence has been a bitter pill.”
She said her daughter, who was a senior in high school at the time of the murder, has taken the death hard. A second grandchild will be too young to remember her grandfather, and a third set to be adopted next week will never know him.
Even so, Brown said, she doesn’t hate those who killed her father.
“It’s far more important for me to spend my mental energy loving my mother rather than hating the guilty,” she said.
The defense put on two witnesses during the sentencing portion of the trial. The first, a school psychologist, testified about the testing he conducted on Walker in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
David Johnson said Walker had already been suspended for fighting by age 8. He got frustrated easily, was hostile and defiant, had a poor self-image, was aggressive and was unable to work in large group settings.
Asked if it’s possible to come back from that sort of early behavior, Johnson said, “In my experience, sadly, it happens very seldom.”
Shannon Walker, Walker’s sister, also testified. She said her brother never made it through middle school.
“This is an unfortunate situation,” she said. “It’s tragic. Nobody wins in a situation like this. Nobody deserves to lose their life over something senseless.”
Even so, she said, “I believe he deserves to come home at some point. I think he should be able to take his last breath at home, not behind bars.”
In his closing statement, Jamerson, the prosecutor, laid out Walker’s criminal history, which escalated from credit card theft and assault as a juvenile to grand larceny of an automobile, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and altering the serial number on a firearm as an adult.
“He actually has had a chance to be incarcerated and learn something from being there,” Jamerson said. “Does that happen? No.”
Michael Massie, Walker’s defense attorney, hoped to sway the jury with some mitigating factors.
“Life does not give all of us the same things,” he said. “Things just didn’t go as well in his life as it has gone for others. That doesn’t mean he should have killed Mr. Carter. When you listened to the tape, I hope you heard that he was remorseful.”
But Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Jim Wiser said Walker wasn’t sorry.
“There’s a difference between being sorry for the act and being sorry for being caught in the act,” Wiser said.
The jury deliberated for about two hours on the sentencing. After initially saying they couldn’t agree on the sentence for murder, they settled on 40 years. They also sentenced him to 10 years on the attempted robbery charge and four years on the conspiracy charge. They gave the mandatory eight years total on the two charges of use of a firearm. It was a total of 62 years.
“Sixty-two years is just too much,” Walker’s uncle, Vance Walker, said after the hearing. “Everybody made poor decisions that night.”
Shannon Walker also said she hoped it would be a lesson to young people.
“There are consequences to actions,” she said. “Try to stay in school, get your education and move forward.”
Walker will have a separate trial on possessing a firearm while a convicted felon, which is set for April 28-29. The judge is set to impose a sentence on the current charges on April 7.
Naomi Lambert, 23, was sentenced last month to 22 years of incarceration. The next hearing in the case of Leon Hayes, 34, is set for Jan. 28.