MARION COUNTY, Iowa — Jason Carter, a Marion County man accused of murdering his mother, will stand trial this week.
Shirley Carter was shot and killed June 19, 2015, in the family’s Lacona farmhouse kitchen.
Her husband, Bill Carter, felt that justice for his wife was taking too long so he and his son Billy brought a civil lawsuit against Jason in December 2017.
Investigators say this civil lawsuit brought out enough evidence to arrest Jason shortly after it wrapped up.
Shirley Carter’s death ripped the family apart and divided husband, Bill Carter, and son, Jason Carter, who ended up blaming each other for her death.
“This is a case about a son who murdered his own mother,” Bill Carter’s attorney Mark Weinhardt said during opening statements of the civil trial.
Jason Carter’s Attorney Steve Wandro said in opening statements, “Jason Carter loved his mother and had nothing to do with her death and it was Bill Carter that killed her.”
During the civil trial, both Jason and Bill were questioned about what they did on the day Shirley was shot. Both of them were hauling grain that morning when Jason said he found her dead on the kitchen floor and called his sister, Jana Lain.
“I just told her that mom’s gone. I couldn’t believe what I’d seen,” Jason Carter said.
Jana then called her dad, Bill, to tell him what she heard from Jason.
“She said, “Dad, mom’s dead and Jason found her and he won’t call 911. You have to call 911,” And that’s when my life ended,” Bill Carter said.
Both Jason and Bill called 911 before Bill arrived at the house and had his last few moments with Shirley.
“I checked her carotid artery and then I kissed her on the forehead. She was cool and I knew she was gone. I picked her head up and held her. I told her I was sorry. I was sorry I wasn’t there to protect her,” Bill Carter said.
Bill thinks Jason killed Shirley because he thought his son was having financial trouble and marital problems.
Jason thinks Bill killed Shirley because he thought Bill was controlling and didn’t want his wife to leave.
But both of them denied killing her during the trial.
Weinhardt asked Jason, “As she stood in the doorway of the house she raised you in, in her sock feet, you shot your mother to death?”
Jason responded, “Absolutely not.”
Wandro asked Bill, “Sir, isn’t it true that really the reason you became so upset and took the life of your wife is because she was ready to leave you?”
Bill responded, “Mr. Wandro, my wife was never going to leave me and I not leave her. We loved each other for 52 years. D. Lain was right. I changed. I changed after she died.”
After just hours of deliberation, the jury found Jason responsible for his mother’s death and awarded $250,000 dollars for pain and suffering and $10 million to her estate.
Weinhardt said immediately following the trial, “All of us on the plaintiff’s side are thrilled to have a first step in the direction of justice for Shirley Carter. This was a hard working and very attentive jury. They got to the truth and they did so today. They efficiently did that. I’m proud of them. Happy to have them do that.”
Days later, police arrested Jason Carter and said they now had enough evidence to charge him with Shirley’s murder.
Jason Carter appealed the civil lawsuit judgment and a hearing was held in December 2018. He claimed new evidence may have changed the outcome of the trial. The judge in the case disagreed.
The criminal trial was moved to Pottawattamie County due to pre-trial publicity and will start on Tuesday with jury selection.