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Mont. police say fugitive couple had death pact

September 23, 1997

By BRENDAN KIRBY

Staff Writer

The woman who died with convicted murderer Charles Elmer Carpenter in a shootout in Montana last week may have been his half-sister, authorities said Tuesday.

Carpenter, formerly of Clear Spring, was killed during a gunfight with a Phillips County, Montana, sheriff's deputy Friday afternoon.

Deputy Brian Robinson also was wounded in the shootout.

Carpenter was serving a life sentence for the 1982 shooting death of his 77-year-old grandmother in Clear Spring when he failed to return to a Baltimore prison facility from a weekend pass in August.

Based on interviews with family members in Maryland and with a woman whom the deputy arrested prior to the shootout, officials said they believe the woman who was shot to death was Henrietta Clark, Carpenter's half-sister.

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Arlyn Greydanus, bureau chief of the Montana Criminal Investigation Bureau, said the woman's fingerprints have been sent to a crime laboratory for positive identification.

Investigators also determined Tuesday that the woman was shot with two weapons. Phillips County Attorney Edward Amestoy said investigators have concluded that the deputy did not shoot the woman.

After he was hit by a blast from Carpenter's 12-gauge sawed-off shotgun, Robinson fired back and hit Carpenter twice in the midsection, Amestoy said. Carpenter crawled into a ditch on the side of the road and the woman ran to him, Amestoy said.

The woman was shot twice and died, Amestoy said.

The second woman, Robin Collins, told authorities that the pair had made a pact not to allow themselves to be taken alive by police.

Amestoy said investigators believe Carpenter may have finished off the woman after she shot herself once with her .22-caliber sawed-off rifle.

"She did suffer two wounds. That's a scenario we strongly believe could have happened. We may never know," he said.

Family members in Maryland said Tuesday that Carpenter and Henrietta Clark had a sexual relationship that culminated with Clark's pregnancy. Vada Luedtke, 30, a half-sister of both, said Clark gave birth to Carpenter's baby in 1995.

Montana officials said they had no information about a child. Family members said they don't know where the boy is.

Carpenter and Clark had the same mother but different fathers, family members said.

Luedtke, who agreed to let Carpenter visit her Baltimore home during weekend passes from the Patuxent Institution, said her brother and Clark were not close until about 1995.

Beginning then, Luedtke said her brother and sister had a sexual relationship while Carpenter was free on work-release. She said she found out about the relationship second-hand.

"He knew better. He knows how I am. He knows I'm real strict about that sort of thing," she said. "I don't believe in certain things."

Other family members said that as a teenager Carpenter had sex with cousins before the fatal shooting of Vada Viola Carpenter.

Hagerstown resident Melissa Loveless, a cousin, said Carpenter had sex with two or three other cousins and once tried to have sex with her. When both were teenagers, she said, Carpenter tried to touch her at their grandmother's Clear Spring home, where Carpenter grew up.

"He tried it with me, but I knew it wasn't right," Loveless said.

Loveless, 29, said that Carpenter also used to act cruelly to animals and people.

"Charles was not mentally right from day one," she said. "He used to set up in the yard and shoot BB's down at cars on the road."

Carpenter's aunt, Betty Saunders, of Leitersburg, said Monday night was the first restful night she has had since learning of Carpenter's escape.

"Last night, I slept four hours without waking up once. That's the first time I've done that in almost seven weeks," she said.

In Montana, officials spent Tuesday tying up loose ends. Amestoy said authorities expect Collins, the other woman arrested Friday, to be extradited by next month to Colorado, where she faces burglary charges.

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