Shirley Carter Death: A Family Mystery That Shook Iowa

Shirley Carter was a 68-year-old grandmother who lived a peaceful life on a farm in rural Marion County, Iowa. She was married to Bill Carter for 52 years and had three children and five grandchildren. On June 19, 2015, she was found shot to death in her kitchen by her son Jason Carter, who called 911 to report the incident. What followed was a complex and controversial investigation that pitted one family member against another and raised questions about the truth, justice, and loyalty.

Who Was Shirley Carter?

Shirley Carter was born on June 10, 1947, in Des Moines, Iowa. She was the daughter of a shoemaker and grew up in a modest home. She married Bill Carter in 1963 and moved to a farm in Pleasantville, where they raised their three children: Jana, Billy, and Jason. Shirley was a devoted wife, mother, and grandmother who helped Bill with the farm work and enjoyed gardening, cooking, and sewing. She was also active in her church and community and had many friends.

How Did Shirley Carter Die?

On the morning of June 19, 2015, Shirley and Bill went out for coffee as they usually did. Bill then dropped Shirley off at their home and left to haul corn with Jason, who worked as a contractor with him. Around noon, Jason returned to his parents’ house to get some tools. He claimed that he found his mother lying on the kitchen floor in a pool of blood with two gunshot wounds.

He called his sister Jana before he called 911 to report the shooting. He also mentioned a bullet hole in the refrigerator. When the police arrived, they found the house ransacked. The drawers in the office and bedroom were pulled out and papers were scattered everywhere. However, nothing seemed to be missing or stolen from the house.

Shirley’s purse was untouched with $140 and credit cards inside. There was also an envelope on the dresser with $1,700 in cash. The murder weapon was never found, but investigators suspected that it was a missing gun from the cabinet in the basement.

Who Killed Shirley Carter?

The investigation into Shirley Carter’s death was complicated and contentious. Initially, the police considered the possibility of a botched burglary or a random act of violence by an intruder. However, they soon focused on Jason as the prime suspect. They believed that he staged the crime scene to make it look like a robbery and that he had a motive to kill his mother.

They alleged that Jason was in financial trouble and that he wanted to inherit his parents’ farm and money. Jason denied any involvement in his mother’s death and maintained his innocence throughout the investigation. He claimed that he loved his mother and that he had no reason to harm her.

He also said that he had an alibi at the time of the shooting and that he passed a polygraph test administered by a private investigator. However, Jason’s father Bill, and brother Billy did not believe him. They accused him of murdering their beloved wife and mother and filed a wrongful death lawsuit against him in 2017.

They hired their own attorney and private investigator to gather evidence against Jason and to pressure the authorities to arrest him. In December 2017, two days after a civil jury found Jason liable for his mother’s death and ordered him to pay $10 million to her estate, he was arrested and charged with first-degree murder in a criminal case.

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What Happened at Jason Carter’s Trial?

Jason Carter’s trial began in March 2019 at the Pottawattamie County Courthouse in Council Bluffs, Iowa. The trial was moved from Marion County due to extensive media coverage and public interest in the case. The prosecution presented witnesses and evidence that aimed to prove that Jason planned and executed his mother’s murder.

They argued that Jason had financial problems, marital issues, and gambling debts that motivated him to kill his mother for her inheritance. They also pointed out inconsistencies and contradictions in Jason’s statements and actions before and after the shooting. The defense countered with witnesses and evidence that attempted to show that Jason was innocent and that there were other possible suspects who could have killed Shirley.

They argued that Jason had a loving relationship with his mother, a solid alibi at the time of the shooting, and no forensic evidence linking him to the crime scene. They also challenged the credibility and reliability of some of the prosecution’s witnesses and evidence.

After two weeks of testimony and arguments, the jury deliberated for less than three hours before reaching a verdict. On March 21, 2019, they found Jason not guilty of first-degree murder.

See Bill Carter talking in court during the trial:

What is the Current Status of Shirley Carter’s Case?

Shirley Carter’s case remains unsolved as no one has been convicted of her murder in a criminal court. Jason Carter was acquitted of the murder charge, but he still faces the civil judgment of $10 million that he owes to his mother’s estate. He has appealed the civil verdict to the Iowa Supreme Court, which upheld it in March 2021.

He has also filed a lawsuit against the state of Iowa and several law enforcement officials, accusing them of violating his civil rights and conspiring to frame him for his mother’s murder. Bill and Billy Carter have expressed their disappointment and disbelief at Jason’s acquittal and have vowed to continue their quest for justice for Shirley.

They have also severed their ties with Jason and his family and have refused to speak to him. Shirley Carter’s death has divided and devastated her family and community. Her friends and neighbors have described her as a kind, generous, and loving person who did not deserve such a tragic and violent end.

Her case has also attracted national attention and has been featured on several TV shows, such as Dateline NBC, 48 Hours, and Accused: Guilty or Innocent. Her case has also inspired a book titled Dead by Sunset: The Murder of Shirley Carter by author Rickie Lee Reynolds. Shirley Carter’s death remains a mystery that haunts many people who knew her and who seek answers and closure. As Bill Carter said, “She was my life. She was my everything.”


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