A string of murders in Grand Rapids, Michigan, going all the way back to 1994, had the authorities scrambling for answers and trying to figure out if they were connected. Among them was Shakara Carter’s slaying in March 2007. The young mother was found on the street months before she was supposed to testify at the trial of her alleged rapist from a few years prior. Crime Junkie Podcast’s ‘MURDERED: Shakara Carter’ focuses on the investigation into the case and what happened in the aftermath. So, let’s find out more then, shall we?
How Did Shakara Carter Die?
Shakara Carter was a 33-year-old with her family residing in Ohio. She was a mother of three who had fallen on hard times, leading to her family members adopting the children. Shakara was close to her mom and talked to her regularly; according to her, the young woman was turning her life around and planned to rebuild her relationship with her kids.
Shakara had recently dealt with breast cancer and had begun to attend church as well. But just when things seemed to be looking up for her, things came to an abrupt end. On March 16, 2007, Shakara’s body was found on a street in Grand Rapids. The 33-year-old had been strangled to death. At the scene, it appeared that a car tried to leave the area on a dirt road that morning. For the authorities, it was yet another murder in the same locality, leading to immense pressure to solve them all.
Who Killed Shakara Carter?
In the time before Shakara Carter’s death, she was to testify against Scott Payne, a man she claimed beat and raped her. In May 2004, Shakara, who was a sex worker, was picked up by a man and driven to a secluded area. He then proceeded to choke and rape her before threatening to kill her. Days later, another 22-year-old sex worker was attacked but survived. When she saw the same man the next day, she noted his car’s license number.
The authorities collected the attacker’s DNA from Shakara, and it was then revealed that this evidence was linked to three attacks in 1989. In those cases, the women were sexually assaulted and threatened to be killed, similar to what happened to Shakara. Later, she identified Scott Payne as the attacker; he had been released about two months before her attack; he had served time for armed robbery.
But when Shakara was killed, Scott was in prison, and immediately, the police were struck by a distinct lack of leads. Over time, they explored other potential suspects and looked into whether Shakara’s murder was connected to other similar deaths in the area. On Thanksgiving in 2006, Starkinya Vance’s body was found close to where Shakara’s remains were found, and she was also strangled.
Furthermore, Linda Gardner’s body was found in a vacant lot in the area, and it was on fire. The authorities considered the possibility of the deaths being connected and looked at Troy Brake as a possible suspect. The police said he beat and almost strangled a sex worker to death in September 2008. So, the similarities couldn’t be ignored. While Troy wasn’t convicted of these murders, he went to prison for an unrelated quadruple slaying.
While the police have considered several suspects, Shakara’s murder remained unsolved. Back in 2007, her father, O’Neil Carter, wanted to prioritize finding the person responsible but felt it still wouldn’t take away the pain of losing his daughter. Shakara’s murder was part of a string of other murders where most victims were into sex work or had drug issues.
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