A Fall Branch woman testified at her ex-husband’s first-degree murder trial Tuesday that she heard “pop, pop, pop,” just before her boyfriend told her he’d been shot as he stood inside the front door at her home.
It happened May 12, 2010, and the shots killed 45-year-old Rick Carter, of Gray. Washington County sheriff’s investigators and a state prosecutor believe James Henry Allen, 51, fired the shots that killed Carter as Carter stood just inside the home where Allen once lived.
Allen is charged with first-degree murder and possession of a prohibited weapon. He had faced a charge of violation of an order of protection, but that violation was actually a criminal contempt and not an actual crime. It was dismissed.
Carter, who had moved in with Allen’s ex-wife, Deborah Franklin at 175 Cherry Lane, Fall Branch, had just checked the porch light at Franklin’s home because it wasn’t working, even though they had replaced the bulb just a few days before.
Franklin said she had let her dog outside and realized the light wouldn’t turn on. After Carter checked it, he stepped back inside and that’s when Franklin heard the shots.
Jury selection started Tuesday morning, and attorneys made quick work of that by selecting the panel before 10 a.m. After opening statements from the state and defense, Assistant District Attorney General Dennis Brooks began laying the groundwork to show the jury Allen premeditated the killing.
Franklin told the jury the shots sounded like fireworks, but she quickly realized Carter was injured. As she called 911 for help, she attended to him, wiped blood that came out of his mouth and put a towel under his head.
At one point, she said Carter was moaning and acted as if he was trying to get up. After EMS personnel arrived, they transported Carter to an area hospital, where he later died.
During opening statements, Brooks told the jury Carter had three bullet wounds, one that pierced his lung and a major artery to the heart.
After the shooting, investigators said Allen went into hiding in a wooded area in Fall Branch, but he later surrendered after talking to one of his daughters on the phone two days later.
Once arrested, Allen gave investigators a statement in which he said he was angry Carter had moved into the home he once shared with Franklin.
“He was using my couch and bed and that made me angry,” Allen’s statement reads.
Investigator Jeff Miller read the entire statement to the jury during testimony Tuesday afternoon.
Allen and Franklin’s 26-year relationship — which included 10 years of marriage — had many ups and downs, according to attorneys during opening statements. The situation had dissolved to the point that Franklin took out an order of protection against Allen in February 2010.
He violated that in March and was arrested.
Allen told investigators after his arrest that seeing Franklin and Carter together “made me snap. It was like a dream.”
That’s when he went to his ex-wife’s home that May 2010 night, and after seeing Franklin and Carter hugging, he got a gun he said was hidden in a trailer beside the house. Allen said he didn’t want to be seen, so he removed the light bulb from the porch light and went to pet his dog, which was outside.
But a smaller dog inside the house began barking, and that’s when Franklin let it out and discovered the light wasn’t working.
After Carter checked the light and stepped back inside, he looked out the front door window, Allen said
“My son and daughter had told me that Rick had been carrying a gun. I shot a warning shot or two in the air. In the door window it looked as if Rick was pulling up a gun and I shot a few shots through the door to scare him,” Allen told investigators.
Defense attorneys Bill Francisco and Bill Donaldson picked away at the state’s case, pointing out that investigators did not send off all the evidence they gathered for testing at the state crime lab. One of those items was a gunshot residue test done on Carter’s hands.
Miller said he and his supervisor didn’t think it was necessary.
The defense also pressed on whether investigators searched Franklin’s home for a weapon. Miller said he didn’t and he doesn’t know if anyone else did.
Miller said Allen led investigators to the location in the woods where he left the rifle — a .22-caliber weapon that was missing the stock. At the scene, officers recovered three types of shell casings — .22-caliber short, .22-caliber long and .308’s.
Evidence presented to the jury Tuesday included more than two dozen photographs of the crime scene, Allen’s statement to investigators and the gun investigators believe Allen used to kill Carter.
Testimony will resume this morning. Allen remains jailed on a $301,000 bond.