COUNCIL BLUFFS — Marion County Attorney Ed Bull wasted little time telling the jury in his opening statements that law enforcement made mistakes in the investigation.

In testimony Monday, Marion County Sheriff Jason Sandholdt said he was on the receiving end of frustration from the family.

“We took an a-- chewing,” Sandholdt said.

Sandholdt said he had a meeting with Bill Carter Sr., his daughter Jana Lain and Jason Carter the Monday following Shirley Carter’s death. The meeting was in response to a series of phone calls from Jason Carter in the afternoon of Sunday, June 21, 2015.

Once he became aware of some evidence that was missed by the crime scene processing team, Sandholdt said he immediately called the Division of Criminal Investigation special agent assigned to the case.

According to Sandholdt, the team did not initially collect a scope cover for a rifle and a live round in the gun safe. Additionally, the gun safe — where the suspected murder weapon had been previously kept — had not been finger printed.

The state also focused questioning of Sandholdt on a phone call received in the early morning hours of Sunday, June 21, 2015.

It was Jason Carter, calling at about 6:09 a.m. that day. His inquiry was whether police had found the rifle.

“Did Jason Carter ask you about any other weapon seized from the home?” Bull asked.

“No, he did not,” responded Sandholdt.

“Did Jason Carter ask you if police had solved the crime?” Bull asked.

“No,” Sandholdt replied.

More calls began later that morning into the afternoon, Sandholdt testified and phone records indicated.

During cross-examination, Jason Carter’s attorney Christine Branstad asked about tips law enforcement received about three individuals being involved in Shirley Carter’s murder.

Sandholdt said law enforcement received several tips, and an investigator was assigned to follow up. He said those tips began coming in during September and October 2015.

Prior to the lunch break, Sandholdt began laying the background of the response of law enforcement and paramedics to Shirley Carter’s home.

While he was responding to the scene from the Pella area, he took a phone call.

On the other end was a hysterical-sounding Jason Carter.

“I couldn’t understand when he originally called, somewhere throughout there he made the comment, ‘She’s dead. They killed her,’” Sandholdt testified. “... I understood that [to mean] that his mom had been shot.”

The call prompted Sandholdt to request the dispatcher to contact the Division of Criminal Investigation and get them to the scene.

“He was wailing into the phone,” Sandholdt said. “I was trying to get him to calm down, he sounded out of breath. I could not understand him.”

Sandholdt said the phone call lasted about a minute.

The lunch break at noon came in the middle of presenting the recording of the radio communications involving responding medical and law enforcement personnel to the scene that morning.

Responders were heading to Lacona, Iowa, to Shirley Carter’s home for a down female, possibly already deceased.

Sandholdt said his deputies routinely respond to medical calls to try and get personnel on scene to render aid when possible. He said in calls involving possible deceased individuals, law enforcement needs to make a determination whether the death was of natural causes or not.

Earlier Monday morning, jurors got to listen to the 911 call placed by Jason Carter. Sandholdt said that when later listening to the 911 call and comparing it to the one he received from Jason Carter not long after, there was a change in his emotions.

“I think you could understand him on the 911 call,” Sandholdt said. “On mine, obviously, like I said, you couldn’t hardly make out what he was saying. ... I think there was a vast difference [between the calls].”

Sandholdt said law enforcement in Marion County don’t deal with homicides all that often. In his seven years as sheriff of the county, he hadn’t worked a homicide until Shirley Carter’s death on June 19, 2015.

The jury also heard testimony Monday morning from Indianola police officer Justin Keller, who was the individual who analyzed Jason Carter’s two cell phones for evidence.

Jason Carter placed three phone calls and sent 13 text messages from his smartphone device the morning of June 19, 2015. On his secondary phone, he sent approximately 60 text messages that morning.

Those messages were with Tara (Hoch) Kauzlarich, who had an extra-marital relationship with Jason Carter.

She took the stand as well and testified that morning, the text messages ended abruptly between the two. They texted daily throughout the day.

Also testifying was Melvin Hoch, of Knoxville, who knew Jason Carter through his father, Bill Carter.

Marion County dispatcher Shannon Ritter also testified. She took the 911 call from Jason Carter.

Charles Smith, a location manager for Smith Fertilizer and Grain in Pleasantville. Smith was texting Jason Carter that morning about a potential field-spraying request, as the two had done commonly.

Jason Carter’s last text to Smith was at 10:55 a.m. the morning Shirley Carter was found dead on her kitchen floor.

Testimony will resume Tuesday morning at 9 a.m. The trial, which was moved from Marion County to Council Bluffs due to publicity, is expected to last up to four weeks.

Kyle Ocker is the managing editor of the Knoxville Journal-Express. He can be reached in the newsroom at 641-842-2155, ext. 22, or via email at Follow him on Twitter @Kyle_Ocker.

Kyle Ocker has been the editor of the Knoxville Journal Express since November 2016. He formerly held the titles of sports editor and associate editor at the Centerville Daily Iowegian, a sister paper to the Journal Express.

Recommended for you