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Murder trial begins for Robert Lee Carter II

The defense and prosecution made opening arguments before witnesses took the stand on the first day of Robert Carter's murder trial.
Published: Jan. 24, 2022 at 8:19 PM EST
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - Witnesses took the stand Monday afternoon on day one of the Robert Lee Carter murder trial. This comes almost four years after he was accused of killing 70-year-old Deanna Shirey of Thomasville and allegedly committing a string of other crimes.

This case gripped the Thomas County community as the search for Shirey lasted nearly 10 days and Carter led law enforcement on a 3-day manhunt. Shirey’s body was eventually found buried in Carter’s backyard and her car was located in Tallahassee.

During the first day of the trial, 12 jurors and four alternate jurors were selected from a pool of 60. The prosecution presented its opening statements first claiming that a timeline of events and Carter’s whereabouts while Shirey was missing will prove his guilt.

“On Sunday, July 1, 2018, Shirey had a conversation that night with her niece. After they hung up the phone, no one in Ms. Shirey’s family or friends ever heard from her again,” said Assistant District Attorney Jess Hornsby.

Hornsby continued to explain the evidence that would be presented, including footage of Carter in Tallahassee just blocks away from where the victim’s vehicle was discovered. He also mentioned that a cellphone case was found in Carter’s home containing DNA that matched Shirey.

“The judge is going to give you jury instructions, tell you what the law is to apply,” said Hornsby. “At that time we’re going to ask you to take that law that the judge gives you, the evidence that you’ve heard during the trial of this case and find Mr. Carter guilty of each and every count in the indictment.”

The defense argued that there were several other people that could have caused harm to Shirey, claiming she had two boyfriends and that a man with mental health issues had an episode right outside of her home once.

Officials also said that when the victim’s car was found, her cellphone, purse and keys were found inside, but there was no physical evidence linking Carter to the car.

Six witnesses took the stand on day one, including Shirey’s niece, a friend and coworker. Other witnesses included Shirey’s prospective daughter-in-law at the time, the detective on the case, the Tallahassee McDonald’s employee that allegedly called Carter a cab and the cab driver that brought Carter back to Thomasville.

While on the stand, witness Mandy Ramos said she saw Shirey was missing on a social media post. She reached out to the victim several times but got no response. Eventually, Ramos did receive a text from Shirey’s phone but she said she knew it wasn’t her.

“I immediately responded back ‘Your son’s been in an accident, it’s an emergency.’ Hoping to get a call,” said Ramos. However, the call never came in.

Day one of the trial wrapped a little after 3 p.m. Monday.

On day two, the prosecution is expected to call the remaining witnesses, which will include the Stephens family -- an Ochlocknee family that was bound at gunpoint in their home.

The trial will reconvene at 9 a.m. Tuesday.

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