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Robert Lee Carter trial: Day three

Published: Jan. 26, 2022 at 10:38 PM EST
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THOMASVILLE, Ga. (WCTV) - The Robert Lee Carter murder trial rolled into day three.

Wednesday’s testimonies focused on the search for 70-year-old Deanna Shirey back in July 2018. Then her body’s recovery on July 12.

Georgia Bureau of Investigations crime scene specialist Amy Braswell took the stand first. She spoke directly to the recovery of Shirey in Carter’s backyard. She confirmed that the shallow grave was only 1ft-3inches deep under a carport like shed. She also testified that there were chairs, buckets and wiring laid on top of the area.

“Once I photographed everything then I started to remove the wiring and the buckets and the chairs from the area,” said Braswell.

Braswell said there was 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 that certain factors might have preserved Shirey from being found sooner if she had been there a few days.

“We had placed her inside a white sheet and then inside the body bag and had slightly pulled back the comforter in order to try to attempt to see the face. But due to the decomp it was sticking to the body,” said Braswell.

After her testimony, Special agent Hank Day with the GBI took the stand. Day said he was the lead investigator on the missing persons case filed for Deanna.

Day said he was requested to help in a missing persons case in Thomasville on July 3, 2018. The case was in reference to Shirey.

Agent Day explained that he complied a list of people that Shirey might have had contact with. Including her handyman- Robert Carter. He said he called Carter and left a message to be called back. However, he never got a response.

On July 6, Day testified that 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. Also known as Ms. Robinson.

Carter was arrested three days later after holding another client of his and her family hostage in their home on the evening of July 6.

According to Special Agent Day, during questioning after his arrest, Carter said he’d two investigators anything they wanted to know as long as he could speak to his son (Trey) face-to-face, if he could be in solitary confinement for 24-hours and if he could have an extra blanket.

Agent 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.

Just before court dismissed for lunch, the jury was released and Carter’s defense motioned for acquittal of several charges, including Count 1: Felony murder and Count 2: False imprisonment of Deanna Shirey.

Carter’s attorney claimed that a cause of death of Deanna Shirey had not been submitted as evidence so that there was not enough evidence to say how it happened and link it to Carter. Count two in regards to false imprisonment was argued because the prosecution confirmed that there was no evidence at all that could have put Carter in SHIREY’S home. The defense left before lunch saying that there was no way to prove Carter killed Shirey or was ever in her home during the time of her alleged disappearance.

The judge ended the first half of the day by saying counts 3-21 would still be left for deliberation and that the motion for acquittal was denied. Counts 1-2 were to be considered and discussed after lunch.

When everyone arrived back to the courtroom a little after 1:30, Carter was acquitted of two charges. Count one, felony murder, and Count two, false imprisonment of Deanna Shirey.

People in the crowd were in tears at the news. One being Shirey’s daughter-in-law Mandy Ramos.

The defense moved to rest and began with closing arguements.

The defense claimed that Carter can’t deny having been in Robinson’s home. Or in the Stephens’ home in Ochlocknee because his fingerprints were found in both locations. However, the defense rests on the fact that no evidence linked Carter to Shirey’s home, her car or her death.

The Prosecution’s closing arguments claimed that Carter went on the run, and committed the 19 other offense to conceal Shirey’s death. Mentioning that if he had been ‘framed’ as he claimed there would have been no need to bury Shireyin a shallow grave.

The state said Carter claimed law enforcement was after him- but that he committed the armed robbery and kidnapping offense against Robinson in Thomasville and then against the Stephens family in Ochlocknee before he was ever even a suspect in the disappearance of Shirey.

The prosecution rested and the jury went to deliberate around 3pm.

The jury deliberated for about an hour. When they returned the verdict found Carter guilty of the remaining 19 counts he was charged with in his indictment, charges 3-21.

Carter was then sentenced by Judge Brian McDaniel to serve 4 life sentences plus 17-years to be served consecutively.

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