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Carter loses bid to have sentence reduced

August 20, 1998|By MARLO BARNHART

Eight years after he shot his ex-girlfriend and her new boyfriend in the parking lot of a rural church, Michael H. Carter was moved to tears Wednesday in Washington County Circuit Court as the events of that day were recalled.

Carter, 42, was seeking post-conviction relief, hoping to convince Judge W. Kennedy Boone that his 45-year sentence should be overturned based on the contention that his attorney at the 1990 trial was incompetent.

Boone rejected those arguments and denied Carter's petition.

One by one, Boone discounted claims by defense attorney Mary Murphy in the post-conviction petition - filed when all appeals are exhausted.

Allegations he was forced into having his case tried before a judge instead of heard by a jury were discounted by Boone who said the court file showed a separate hearing was held on that issue the day before trial.

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Claims that then defense attorney Elwood Hauver didn't explore a plea of not criminally responsible also were debunked by Boone.

"It was a judgment call," Boone said. "The issue was explored and the report from the doctors at Clifton T. Perkins Hospital said he was criminally responsible."

The case dates back to July 27, 1990, when Carter shot his ex-girlfriend, Tammy Wilt, and her then boyfriend, David Gardner, as they were stopped in the parking lot of the Downsville Church of the Brethren on Dam No. 4 Road.

Gardner was shot three times while he sat in his truck. He recovered from his injuries.

Wilt, who also survived, was shot once in the thigh and once in the head as she got out of the truck and tried to stop Carter from firing, court records said.

After she was shot, Wilt ran to a nearby home where she was admitted and sheltered from Carter's continued attack, court records said.

Carter forced the door and fired several shots through the opening, narrowly missing people in the house, court records said.

A resident of the house got a gun and shot Carter two times. Wounded, Carter drove to a wooded area near Greenbrier State Park and shot himself several more times, court records said.

Later he turned himself in to park officials who called police.

At his 1991 trial, Judge Frederick C. Wright III convicted Carter of two counts of assault with intent to murder.

Carter spoke several times during Wednesday's hearing including from the witness stand. He said he saw Hauver only two times before his trial.

He admitted making certain decisions both in and out of court during his trial but said he was on medication at the time and didn't know what he was doing.

Carter also said he didn't know what he was doing when he shot Wilt, Gardner and himself in 1990.

"This wasn't premeditated ... I was home, I ate dinner, I pulled out and saw them in the truck and it just happened," a tearful Carter said.

Carter is serving his sentence at the Roxbury Correctional Institution south of Hagerstown.

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