Months after initially stating that there was “no reason” to suspect foul play in the Black man’s death, a Mississippi sheriff said on Tuesday that he has not ruled out the possibility of murder in the case of Rasheem Carter.
After telling his mother that he was being pursued by white men shouting racial epithets, 25-year-old Carter was found dead last autumn.
Smith County Sheriff Joel Houston defended his initial conclusion in an interview with NBC News by stating that there was no evidence at the time that suggested homicide. But he added that in order to make a more firm decision, his department is still awaiting search warrants.
Key elements of the investigation, including the department’s procedure for eliminating potential suspects, were disclosed by the sheriff for the first time.
The interview came the day after Carter’s family members and their lawyer, Ben Crump, criticized the government for keeping their questions unanswered for more than four months and claimed that the police were covering up what they believed to be a vicious hate crime.
Nothing is being ignored, Houston declared on Tuesday. There is nothing to conceal.
On October 2, Carter was reported missing after calling the police for assistance and frantically calling his mother to say that three white trucks were chasing him, according to his mother. The last time Carter’s family heard from him was on that day.
His remains were reportedly discovered on Nov. 2 in a wooded area south of Taylorsville, Mississippi, according to authorities. A day later, the Smith County Sheriff’s Department issued a statement on Facebook saying it had “no reason to believe foul play was involved,” despite the fact that the case was still being looked into.
At a news conference on Monday, Carter’s family members and legal representative urged the Justice Department to take over the investigation as a civil rights case because they were outraged by the sheriff’s hasty decision.
“This was a nefarious act. This was an evil act,” Crump said. “Somebody murdered Rasheem Carter, and we cannot let them get away with this.”
According to the sheriff, his office initially declared that there was no suspicion of criminal activity in order to allay public anxiety after discovering no preliminary evidence that Carter had been pursued.
It was merely letting the neighborhood or general public know that nobody else was thought to be involved at this time, he explained. It does appear to have given people unnecessary headaches, but we can only go on the evidence. The evidence was inconclusive at the time.
Carter, a welder from Fayette, Mississippi, was performing a temporary contract job 100 miles away in Taylorsville. His mother, Tiffany Carter, claimed that he was putting money aside to reopen his seafood restaurant, Cali’s, named after his 7-year-old daughter, which had been closed due to the pandemic.
She stated, “That was his intention. “He returned to work because of that,”
However, Carter was at the job site in October when he got into a fight with at least one coworker and ran away out of fear for his life, according to his mother.
“He said, ‘I got these men trying to kill me,’” Carter’s mother recalled him saying.
She advised Carter to seek assistance at the neighborhood police station but eventually lost touch with him.
On Tuesday, the sheriff claimed that his office had questioned “everyone involved” in Carter’s previous employment, including four to five people who Carter had warned his mother might pose a threat.
When Carter was last seen alive, Houston claimed that police “ruled them out” after determining from phone records and GPS coordinates that their devices were almost 100 miles away from Taylorsville at another job site.
Carter “had not been himself” for about a week prior to going missing, according to Carter’s coworkers and boss, according to the sheriff.
They reported that his entire demeanor had changed. They were unsure of what was happening,” said Houston. “They simply claimed that he was more private. In contrast to the past week or so, he hasn’t been able to joke around as much.
Houston claimed that Carter engaged in “a few verbal fights” with at least one coworker. However, the sheriff made no mention of the nature of the argument or whether Carter’s behavior changed as a result of the altercation.
Carter was the only person visible in the footage, which was taken on a private landowner’s game camera on Oct. 2 after 4:30 p.m., according to Houston.
The sheriff claimed that when the property owner learned about it in mid-October, he gave the police the image. Using cadaver dogs, Houston claimed that the search of several hundred acres took about two weeks.
Along with Carter’s scattered remains, authorities found inside his blue jeans some cash, bank cards, a driver’s license, a vape and a phone charger, though they never recovered his phone.
The sheriff’s department has submitted a search warrant to Google to determine whether any devices pinged in the area where Carter’s remains were found around the time he went missing.
He said, “It’s a last-ditch effort to see if anyone else was with him or not. “Using this tool is not unusual.”
Houston noted that the procedure has been ongoing since mid-November and that the department has had to modify, focus, and resubmit their request numerous times, most recently last week.
Houston stated that he appreciates the Justice Department’s participation and that he wants Carter’s family to receive justice “just as much as the family does.”
The Carters disagree.
Authorities reportedly told three family members that wild animals might have ripped the man’s body apart.
Carter’s mother’s cousin Yokena Anderson said of her relative: “He was in so many different pieces. They wanted to inform us that he went there and died, and that the nearby animals were eating his remains.
Carter’s mother said that her son was lucid about the threats he faced during their final phone calls and that he was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol and had no history of mental illness.
“I just know what my son told me,” she said Tuesday. “I don’t believe anything they say. It’s lies after lies.”