Although Carl Carter Jr.'s story was about his mother — a real estate agent — and although the settlement agents (attendees) at the Galactic Escrow Training events choose a different career path, it is clear how the same story could unfortunately happen to anyone in our industry.
Carl's mother, Beverly Carter, was a wife of almost 35 years, she had three sons, was a stay–at–home Mom for years and then had a successful career as a real estate agent. She loved her family, especially her grandkids.
On Thursday, September 25, 2014, Beverly had a busy day in the office and had won $50 in an office competition. She called her husband around 5:15 p.m. to let him know she had a 6 p.m. showing appointment with potential buyers and then she would grab dinner with her winnings on the way home.
Beverly had been in contact with the potential buyers via email, text and phone. They were a husband and wife relocating to Arkansas purportedly from out of state. The husband had originally set the appointment to meet Beverly at the property alone, but Beverly told him that was against her company's policy. The man said he would bring along his wife and even put his wife on the phone to ease Beverly's tension.
The lake view property was bank–owned through foreclosure and had no electricity. Beverly told the buyers they would need to meet during daylight hours to view the property. Beverly arrived early at the property, just a few miles away from her own home and on the same street as her Pastor's home. She locked her purse in the trunk and entered the property.
The doorbell rang and Beverly was surprised and uncomfortable to discover the husband showed up alone. He said his wife was tied up at work and asked that Beverly send her pictures as they toured the house. Beverly started walking the husband through the house.
When they reached the second floor, the husband said, "You are about to have a bad day." He then pulled Beverly's arms around her back and wrapped duct tape around her wrists and ankles. He wrapped duct tape around her mouth and eyes.
He backed his car up to the front door and threw Beverly in the trunk. He then snapped a picture of his deed and texted it to his wife. He took Beverly to his house and put her in the bathroom.
The husband and wife thought Beverly was wealthy, because she was beautiful, successful and did a great job of marketing herself. Their scheme to kidnap her was to take her bank card and credit cards, and to use their scanning device to take all her money. They had her record a ransom message to her husband to put more money in her accounts for them to steal.
"Carl, it's Beverly. I just want to let you know I'm OK. I haven't been hurt. Just do what he says and please don't call the police. If you call the police, it could be bad. Just want you to know that I love you very much."
The kidnapper made one mistake when he put Beverly in his car, he forgot to take her purse which was in the trunk of her car. The car was still at the property. The kidnapper returned to the property to nab the purse only to discover the property swarming with family, friends and lots of law enforcement.
An officer even stopped the kidnapper and asked him on camera if he knew the whereabouts of Beverly. When he said no, they let him go. He returned to his house and panicked, knowing Beverly was in his bathroom and everyone was looking for her.
He took Beverly out to a cement plant and left her overnight in a field, still bound by duct tape. Meanwhile a massive hunt was conducted by hundreds of volunteers who scoured the farm and swamplands of Scott, Arkansas, looking for any clues.
The kidnapper returned the next day and stood behind Beverly wrapping duct tape continuously around her face until she suffocated. He then dug a shallow grave and put her in it. On Tuesday, September 30, 2014, Beverly's body was finally discovered.
Law enforcement discovered who committed the kidnapping and murder through cell phone records. They arrested the husband and wife team. In the end the wife struck a plea deal for 30 years in prison and a chance for parole in 21 years. She had to give up custody of her daughter when she reported to prison. Her murdering husband received two life sentences.
Beverly's story was the focus of a Dateline NBC episode entitled, "The Client," and is still available online for viewing. Her tragic story is shared for a reason: To raise awareness of the criminal acts of others and to provide some tips for keeping our readers and customers safe.
First, spread the word about an application website called REALTOR® Safe Harbor found at http://realtorsafeharbor.com for agents to conduct business in a safe environment, such as a competitor real estate office or a coffee house.
The concept is simple, agents need an easy way to meet with clients in a safe location. Often agents are asked to meet with clients who want to see property far from their home office. It allows the agent to meet the potential clients and view their identification in the presence of others.
Cultivate Safer Practices:
- Be aware of what you are doing, such as waiting for the garage door to fully close before leaving your family to head to the office.
- Ask yourself how you can improve your safety, such as never walking to your car alone or not being afraid to turn around to see who is following you.
- Ask for feedback from your family and colleagues to discover parts of your normal routine you can change to increase your safety.
Carl shared six takeaways from this tragedy everyone should implement immediately:
- Prepare and Be Aware. Take training classes. Learn self–defense. Slow down — text less and pay attention. The "bad guys" come in many forms (a married couple in Beverly's situation). Remember the very thing that makes you so awesome and successful is the very thing that makes you a target.
- Who Knows Where You Are? Make sure you are communicating your whereabouts at all times, with your colleagues and your family.
- Find and Cultivate Your Happiness. In his mom's absence, Carl is continually finding out many of her trials and struggles he previously knew nothing about. Her ability to smile through it all was uncanny. To Carl, she was the ultimate example of resiliency.
- Get Life Insurance. Do not do it to make your family rich, but do get enough to keep them from collapsing financially without you. Luckily Beverly had renewed her policy just two weeks prior to the kidnapping.
- Love. Spend time — quality time — with those you love. Make memories. Laugh often. Give hugs. Tell them you love them. Carl has so much peace in knowing he hugged and kissed his mom every time he saw her.