Paragraph 32 reads: "From an early age, Daniel was an intelligent child, picking things up quickly and working at a 10th-grade level while in the eighth grade."
"But it was clear he had his problems, Cindy Carter said.
He suffered from severe depression and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, taking Zoloft and Ritalin to counter those problems."
PUBLISHED SUNDAY, JANUARY 19, 2003
Troubled teen, angry uncle: fatal mix
15-year-old claims self-defense in brutal slaying
Read also: King brothers draw sympathetic spotlight from fellow troubled teenager
When deputies found Jack Carter`s body in a Beulah bedroom July 16, he had a nearly
4-inch-deep gash in his neck, his jugular vein was sliced and his arm was nearly severed.
Jack Carter and his nephew, Daniel Carter, have fun on Jack's boat during summer 2000.
Outside the house, 15-year-old Daniel Carter was covered in blood and muttering to himself.
Deputies tried to calm him down, telling him everything would be OK.
"No, it won`t," Daniel said. "I just killed my uncle. What am I going to do?"
Ten cuts on Carter`s body and a bloody crime scene indicated a brutal murder. But Daniel claimed self-defense from the start.
Nevertheless, he was quickly arrested and indicted as an adult on a first-degree murder charge carrying a mandatory sentence of life in pri-son. For the last six months, he has been in the Escambia County Jail awaiting his trial in April.
Daniel`s case is the second time in a year and a half that the local criminal justice system will struggle to determine how to handle a teenager charged with murder.
The internationally publicized legal saga of Alex and Derek King beating their sleeping father to death with a baseball bat ended in December with 14-year- old Derek being sent to a juvenile detention facility for eight years and 13-year-old Alex being sent to another such facility for seven years.
But Daniel`s case has not grabbed the public`s attention.
Somehow, the masses of people who jumped at the chance to help the angelic-looking King boys, who had little remorse or explanation for their actions, have completely ignored Daniel, a scruffy and rebellious boy whose claim of self-defense is swaying the prosecutor.
As attorneys pore through the evidence and statements from witnesses in Daniel`s case, they are beginning to realize he may have been telling the truth: His uncle threatened and attacked him, and he acted only to defend himself.
Daniel told Escambia County investigators that his uncle called before coming to the home the teen and his single mother shared, and threatened to tie him up and cut off his testicles. Indeed, deputies found a buck knife in Jack Carter`s pocket and a length of rope.
Assistant State Attorney David Rimmer, who also prosecuted the Kings, has offered Daniel a plea bargain.
Under the agreement, Daniel would plead guilty to manslaughter in exchange for a maximum nine years in prison. It`s a far cry from life in prison, though more than what the King boys received.
Rimmer said he`s trying to strike a fair balance.
"The totality of the facts may not have a lot of jury appeal, because the kid`s in his own house, the uncle is angry," Rimmer said. "But a jury might find that he was initially justified to defend himself, but at some point, he exceeded that."
James Stokes, who represented Alex and now represents Daniel, hasn`t decided if a nine-year sentence is short enough.
He said he and Daniel are in a bind, caught between opting for the guaranteed lighter sentence or taking a risk by handing the decision to a jury.
Daniel Carter, 15, look on as others come before Judge John Kuder at the M.C. Blanchard Judicial Building for their arraignments.
"You`ve got a 50-50 shot at spending the rest of your life in prison or settling for nine years," Stokes said. "Would you want to roll those dice?"
Stokes said the decision has been hard on Daniel, who has struggled with drug problems and takes medication for depression and other psychological problems.
"He`s very much alone," Stokes said. "He lost his girlfriend over this; he doesn`t get a lot of visitation."
Cindy Carter said her son also is battling post-traumatic stress disorder, struggling to sleep and having almost-nightly nightmares about his confrontation with his uncle.
"He has nightmares where he wakes up screaming. He can`t go to sleep cause he`s afraid of someone going in there and beating him up," she said. "He has serious problems, but they`re only keeping him medicated enough to keep him from getting psychotic."
Friends of Jack Carter aren`t concerned with the emotional toll on Daniel. They`re just upset with the possibility that he will be out of prison within a decade.
"If you cut him by mistake, you drop the knife and call somebody," said Rob Rockholz, Jack Carter`s best friend. "But he cut him, then continued stabbing him. That`s a whole different ball game. That`s murder."
Cindy Carter disagrees.
"I know people`s perception is that this was some kind of brutal, premeditated murder," Cindy Carter said. "They were never hostile before this event. But my brother made some pretty serious threats to do bodily harm, and I think Daniel was just scared to death.
"I`ve gone through a series of emotions in all this, from anger and sadness to confusion and what-ifs and whys. It`s catastrophic to lose my little brother. And with it being my son ..." she said as her voice trailed off.
From an early age, Daniel was an intelligent child, picking things up quickly and working at a 10th-grade level while in the eighth grade.
But it was clear he had his problems, Cindy Carter said.
He suffered from severe depression and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, taking Zoloft and Ritalin to counter those problems.
After getting into trouble at Wedgewood Middle School in 1999, he was sent to Clubbs Alternative Middle School, a school for students who have been expelled or are having trouble in a traditional setting.
Daniel moved on to Tate High School in 2001 but was expelled within two months.
He went to Escambia Charter School, which caters to troubled youths. But after just a few weeks there, school officials called Cindy Carter to talk about his behavioral problems.
"We had a real heart to heart, and they just felt Daniel had some issues that were interfering with his behavior at school," Cindy Carter said. "They offered me the option of pulling him out of school, and I did."
Cindy Carter, a former respiratory therapist, then sent him to Twelve Oaks, an alcohol- and drug-recovery center, for a monthlong marijuana program. The program worked well, but Cindy Carter said her son simply switched to psychedelic mushrooms.
She was home-schooling her son at the time, using an online program that he treated "as a chore."
His troubles followed him home.
Cindy Carter recalled Daniel cutting himself during fits of severe depression.
"He said it lets the pain out when he bleeds," she said.
She often called her brother to help discipline her son.
Jack Carter`s friends said he was serious about helping the troubled teen.
"It was something that was on his mind for a long time," Rockholz said. "He really wanted to help that kid, to help his sister. But nothing ever changed, and we kept telling him, `Jack, you`ve got to let this go.` "
Cindy Carter said she turned to her brother because Daniel`s father was never involved in his life.
Whatever happened that night, she can`t imagine her son getting violent.
"All the men in my family were hunters, and they expected Daniel to be a hunter, but he didn`t want to do that because he didn`t want to kill anything," she said. "He was a very loving and caring child."
A man full of life
Jack Carter was born in Liberty, Texas, and moved to Navarre Beach eight years ago for the sun, surf and hunting.
A model in his younger years, he loved living along the Gulf Coast. He surfed, water skied, fished constantly and took hunting trips to Alabama and Texas.
"Whenever he entered a room, you knew it because you heard that laugh of his," said friend Jill Brush. "But at the same time, he had such a big heart.
"His father died a few years ago, and he had a real hard time with it. And I`m going through a tough time with my mother because she has Alzheimer`s. When we talked about those things, it was one on one, and all the joking and kidding went out the door. That meant so much to me."
Jack Carter worked in car dealerships for nearly 20 years, making a good income and enjoying every dollar he made.
"You just don`t meet people like that but once or twice in your lifetime," said Ray Langston, a former neighbor who now lives in Atlanta.
Jack Carter dated frequently and lived a fun life along Navarre Beach.
But after years of shaky relationships, he found someone. He met Marni Jamison and proposed to her last year.
"She was the best thing that ever happened to him," Rockholz said. "They had just moved in together, and we thought this was the one."
But that all ended on July 16, when Carter decided to help his sister one more time.
"Somehow, we always thought this day would come," Brush said.
Just before going to work at Baptist Hospital that Tuesday morning, Cindy Carter called her brother to ask him to help her with Daniel.
He didn`t answer, so she left a message on his answering machine, explaining the problems she was having with Daniel.
"I really had felt like I had talked until I was blue in the face about drugs and the direction he was heading," Cindy Carter said. "I really wanted my brother to come over and talk to him, a man-to-man thing."
Jack Carter kept boxes of his belongings in his sister`s backyard shed and had repeatedly told Daniel to stay out of them. But Daniel opened one of the boxes and sifted through old surfing magazines.
She also said she feared Daniel was about to buy - and possibly distribute - marijuana, and she thought he was growing marijuana and psychedelic mushrooms in their wooded back yard.
Jack Carter heard the message that evening and called his sister.
"I told that boy if he got into my stuff, I was coming over and whip him like a man," Cindy Carter recalled her brother saying.
"Well, he`s not a man; he`s a boy," she answered.
"I`ll be over there Thursday morning," he said.
Cindy Carter thought Daniel might get depressed by his uncle`s visit and feared he would cut himself again.
So she gathered all the knives she could find - Daniel`s pocketknife, steak knives, other knives in the kitchen - and two guns and locked them in the trunk of her car. But she couldn`t find a long, machete-type knife that Daniel`s grandfather had given him just before he died.
Daniel was on the line for part of the conversation and later told investigators that his uncle threatened to tie him up and cut off his testicles.
Fear and anger
Daniel was worried, calling friends to ask for advice.
He called Brian Voeks, 18, a friend from church who was staying with the Carters.
Daniel warned Voeks that his uncle had threatened to beat up both of them because they were both looking through the magazines.
"He was really scared about this," Voeks told investigators. "Daniel was freaking out, like totally petrified. I said `I`ll talk to you about this when I get home.` "
Several friends suggested Daniel call the police.
About 8 p.m., Jack Carter called back.
"I`m in Gulf Breeze," Cindy Carter recalled him as saying. "I`m not coming Thursday; I`m coming right ow."
She could tell he was really "pumped up."
"Jack, I can tell you`re angry. I do not want you to come over here and beat my child," she told him.
"Well, I`m going to come in there making some noise," he answered.
"Noise is fine," she told him. "There`s a difference between abuse and punishment."
Cindy Carter left the door unlocked, told Daniel she was going to lie down and went to her bedroom to watch TV while she waited for her brother.
About 11 p.m., he entered the house and went straight to Daniel`s room.
"Jack immediately started screaming," Cindy Carter said.
For the next 15 minutes, the two exchanged screams, tears and violent, physical outbursts.
Daniel told deputies his uncle started throwing things around the room, breaking his PlayStation video game, lamps and guitars. He said his uncle dragged him around by the hair and hit him at least once in the neck with a flashlight.
He said his uncle told him to imagine his head was the end of the bed, then beat the bed repeatedly with the flashlight.
Cindy Carter listened as her brother tried to get through to Daniel.
"Your mother gives you everything," she recalled him saying. "Your mother and I, when we grew up, didn`t have (anything) and look at you. She works ... to get you everything and what do you do but (mess) up all the time. You don`t do what she asks you to do, you do everything she asks you not to do.
"I love my sister more than anything in the world and Daniel, I love you. I wouldn`t be here if I didn`t care about you,` she recalled her brother saying. "I will see you grow up to be what your mother wants you to be, but you just won`t listen to anybody."
The screaming would die down at times, as Jack Carter sat on the bed and pleaded with his nephew.
"This is what was weird," Daniel told investigators. "He`d sit down and be like `I love you and I`m only doing this for your good. I mean, me and you can go fishing.`
But then, Daniel said, his uncle would continue beating him.
"He wouldn`t stop," Daniel said. "He just kept on and on."
Daniel reached for the telephone and tried to call 911, but his uncle ripped the phone out of the wall and flung it into the hallway.
Cindy Carter continued listening as the screaming turned into quiet sobs. But then, the screaming and crashing noises escalated.
At the height of the argument, Jack Carter pushed Daniel`s TV off the stand, prompting Cindy Carter, who had broken her foot two days before, to reach for her crutch and start shuffling toward Daniel`s door.
"I thought `This has really gone too far, I need to go in there and stop it,` " she said.
When the television came crashing down, it dislodged the knife she had searched for earlier. Daniel grabbed it.
"That was the only way I knew that would help me," he told investigators.
Daniel was on his back and his uncle was on top of him as the two struggled for the knife. Daniel clutched it in his hands and held it out in front of him.
"I tried to push him off my knife, but he still held on to it and then it just went straight through his neck," Daniel said. "And the noise that he made, it`s freaking me out, man."
By the time Cindy Carter reached her son`s room, she heard Daniel screaming: "Mommy, mommy, Uncle Jack`s dying."
"He was hysterical, running around screaming, `Oh my God. I didn`t mean to do it. Oh my God,` " she said.
An autopsy revealed Jack Carter had been stabbed 10 times and had cuts along both his arms, his chest and his head.
When asked about the nine extra cuts, Daniel said he couldn`t remember because of the confusion during the struggle.
Cindy Carter rushed into the room and saw her brother sitting on the floor, still breathing, still conscious.
His neck was torn through, cutting two main veins that were gushing blood.
She had worked in emergency rooms for 20 years, so she did what she could, trying to pinch off the veins and putting a pillow to his neck to stop the bleeding.
But she knew her brother had no chance.
"I said, `Oh my God, I`m so sorry, this wasn`t supposed to happen, this wasn`t supposed to happen, I`m so sorry, I love you, I love you.`
"I looked at him and I looked in his eyes and I said, `You go to sleep, you go to sleep, it won`t hurt, just go to sleep.`
"I held him until he took his last breath."
The case against Daniel Carter
DEFENDANT: Daniel Carter, 15, is charged with first-degree murder. He will be tried as an adult.CIRCUMSTANCES: Daniel is accused of killing his uncle, Jack Carter, on July 16, 2002. Jack Carter was trying to discipline the rebellious teen, who found a knife and stabbed him 10 times.
DEFENSE: Daniel has claimed self-defense from the start, saying his uncle beat him, and he was only trying to protect himself.
TRIAL: Scheduled to start April 7.
POSSIBLE SENTENCE: If convicted of first-degree murder, a life term in prison is mandatory. A jury could return a lesser verdict - second-degree murder or manslaughter - which would lower the prison term.
PLEA BARGAIN: Assistant State Attorney David Rimmer has offered Daniel a plea bargain in which he would plead guilty to manslaughter in exchange for a maximum nine years in prison. Defense attorney James Stokes said he and Daniel will decide in the next few weeks whether to accept the offer.