911 operators in Inverness, Florida, received an alarming call on the evening of July 13, 2019, when a frantic Carlos Hallowell called to inform that his adoptive mother was dying inside their house. When the police arrived, they found the deceased body of Denise Hallowell brutally mutilated by an ax. ‘Dateline: Horror at the Lake’ portrays the gruesome murder and shows how the subsequent police investigation pointed to a perpetrator much closer to home than expected. If this case seems intriguing, and you want to know who killed Denise, we have you covered!
How Did Denise Hallowell Die?
Denise Hallowell was a mother to two adoptive children and worked as a teacher in Marion County. According to reports, she was previously accused of child abuse by her younger adoptive child and even arrested for the same. However, authorities could not find any evidence to back the charge, and Denise was finally let go. Denise’s older adoptive child, Carlos Hallowell, was the only other person present in their Inverness, Florida, home when 911 officers received a call about her brutal murder.
Once first responders arrived on the scene, they found Denise Hallowell lying on her bed, unmistakeably dead. Her body was mutilated brutally, and the murder weapon, an ax, was still embedded in her head. Although it was pretty evident, an autopsy later determined the ax wounds to have caused the death, and it was ruled a homicide.
Who Killed Denise Hallowell?
With Carlos present in the house at the time of the murder, cops naturally decided to question him. However, the then-17-year-old claimed that he was not involved in the killing and insisted that he slept throughout the murder. He further mentioned that the family’s dogs woke him up from his nap, after which he discovered his mother’s body. Still, the absence of any signs of forced entry seemed quite suspicious to officers.
Once the police believed Carlos’ statement, the investigation got quite challenging as there were no leads to work on. Moreover, forensic evidence collected from the crime scene hinted at Carlos being present on the murder scene. However, authorities got a significant breakthrough when they managed to recover the victim’s phone along with three CCTV cameras from the lake adjacent to the house. Using images recovered from the cameras, the police were finally able to prove that Carlos was not napping at the time of the murder.
Moreover, they even location-tracked Carlos’ phone, which gave them enough evidence to confirm his involvement in the crime. Although the police brought Carlos in a second time, he kept insisting on his innocence. Even the recovered CCTV cameras and phone could not deter him as he claimed he threw those objects into the lake out of fear after his mother’s death. However, he could not refute the forensic evidence and finally decided to change his story. He told the police that he and his mother had quite a rocky relationship.
Carlos had allegedly expressed a desire to enroll in a technical college instead of a four-year degree that Denise wanted. Yet, when he mentioned such a desire to his mother, she allegedly refused to entertain it and even claimed that she would not pay his school fees. This angered Carlos, who claimed that he went out to chop wood using an ax. However, rage took hold of his actions and led him to his mother’s room with the ax still in his hands. Carlos then flew into a rage and claimed that he lost all memory of attacking and killing his mother.
With a confession on their hands, the police finally charged Carlos with Denise Hallowell’s murder. Once produced in court, Carlos pleaded not guilty. His lawyers claimed that he got expelled from school in January 2019, and once Denise got to know of that, she became pretty strict and overbearing, which led to the murder. Ultimately, the court found Carlos guilty of first-degree premeditated murder and sentenced him to life in prison in Fall 2021. However, Carlos will be eligible for a sentence review after serving a minimum of 25 years.
Read More: Where is Carlos Hallowell Now?