Jury finds Robert Carter guilty on 19 of 21 counts
The jury deliberated for about an hour.
THOMASVILLE, Ga. (WCTV) - Robert Lee Carter has been found guilty of 19 out of the 21 charges against him after a three-day trial.
The jury deliberated for about an hour after Judge Brian McDaniel granted the defense’s motion for acquittal of felony murder and false imprisonment connected to Deanna Shirey’s death.
Carter was handed four life sentences and an additional 17 years in prison, which are to be served consecutively.
The defense said there was no evidence of Carter ever being in Shirey’s home. Carter’s attorney also pointed out a cause of death was never submitted, so there was no way to determine how Shirey died.
Carter was still charged with concealing her death.
Armed robbery, kidnapping, false imprisonment and theft were among the 19 charges Carter was convicted of. Those stem from an assault on a woman at her Thomasville home a few days after Shirey’s disappearance, and a home invasion and robbery at a home in Ochlocknee soon after that.
The defense team did not bring forward any witnesses and rested its case.
The jury started deliberating around 3 p.m. Wednesday after closing arguments wrapped up.
Wednesday’s testimonies focused on the search and recovery of the 70-year-old’s body back in July 2018.
Georgia Bureau of Investigation crime scene specialist Amy Braswell took the stand first. She spoke directly about the recovery of Shirey in Carter’s backyard.
She confirmed that the shallow grave was only 1 foot and 3 inches deep under a carport-like shed. She also testified that there were chairs, buckets and wiring laid on top of the area.
Braswell said there were only one or two blowflies in the area when she arrived. She testified that due to the body being wrapped, buried and covered under the shed, decomposition might have been slowed down, which is why a smell might have been delayed.
She also testified that she did not know how long the body might have been there, but certain factors might have preserved Shirey from being found sooner if she had been there a few days
After Braswell, special agent Hank Day with the GBI took the stand. Day said he was the lead investigator on the missing person case filed for Shirey.
Day explained he compiled a list of people that Shirey might have had contact with, including her handyman Robert Carter. He testified that he called Carter and left a message to be called back. He never got a response.
On July 6, Day testified he was at the Thomasville-Thomas County Justice Center planning to dispatch a search party for Shirey when law enforcement was tipped off about Carter holding one of his other clients hostage in Thomasville.
Carter was arrested three days later after holding another client of his and her family hostage in their Ochlocknee home on the evening of July 6.
According to Day, during questioning after his arrest, Carter said he’d give two investigators anything they wanted to know as long as he could speak to his son face-to-face, if he could be in solitary confinement for 24-hours and if he could have an extra blanket.
Day said during his interview with Carter, he denied knowing where Shirey was. He also said Carter denied having had anything to do with her disappearance. However, Day said what stood out during the interview is that Carter referred to Shirey in the past tense.
However, the defense rested on the fact that no evidence linked Carter to Shirey’s home, her car or her death.
The prosecution’s closing arguments claimed Carter went on the run and committed the 19 other offenses to conceal Shirey’s death. The prosecution also mentioned if Carter had been framed as he claimed, there would have been no need to bury Shirey in a shallow grave.
The state said Carter claimed law enforcement was after him, but he committed the armed robbery and kidnapping offenses against Robinson in Thomasville and then against the Stephens family in Ochlocknee before he was ever even a suspect in Shirey’s disappearance.
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