Summary of Offense:
Pinkney Carter was convicted and sentenced to death for the murders of Elizabeth Reed Smith, Courtney Nicole Smith, and Glenn Pafford. Pinkney “Chip” Carter and Elizabeth “Liz” Reed Smith met in July 1998 at a Publix Supermarket in Jacksonville where they worked. Reed was married with four children, but she had separated from her husband earlier that year. Carter and Reed began dating, and, in the fall of that year, they began living together along with Reed’s four children. In 1999, Reed, with a significant amount of financial help from Carter, bought a house in Jacksonville. They lived there for more than two years, during which time her divorce was finalized, and Carter continued to help with the house payments. Carter, Reed, and Reed’s children did things together, such as going on trips to Universal studios, Disney World, Busch Gardens, and Six Flags over Georgia. Carter went hunting in Georgia with Richard, Reed’s oldest son, and went to his baseball games. Carter, Reed, and Reed’s children spent Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Easter together. Carter and Liz had arguments from time to time. They would break up and then get back together. During these separations the two remained friends. The couple never had a definitive final separation; instead, they remained close and talked about getting back together. They saw each other often. Cynthia Starling, Carter’s sister, testified Carter wanted to make the relationship work.
During this time, Reed had serious financial problems. In the fall of 2001, she fell three months behind in the mortgage payments on her home. By January 2002, she and Carter had reconciled, and he moved back into the house and immediately paid the delinquent mortgage amounts, as well as the current month’s bill. In total, he gave the bank $2800. He then asked Reed to marry him and gave her a one-carat diamond ring, which she accepted. In April and May, they went on a cruise together. In May, however, Carter moved out again. Liz called off the engagement and returned the ring. Carter considered this move only a trial separation. He testified, “I still loved her…wanted to be with her, but you know, we had a difference of opinion.” Reed had not cleanly broken off with Carter, and he would come to his house on their days off and have sex with him. According to Carter, “That was our normal thing whenever she came over.”
Reed, however, was dating other men, and Carter learned by June or July 2002 that she was seeing Glenn Pafford, who managed the Publix where she worked. By July 2002, she had been dating him for a couple of months. Carter sometimes watched the house and saw Pafford’s truck parked there. Reed visited with Carter on Sunday July 20, and they had sex as usual. She was happy and in a good mood, according to Carter. Before leaving, she agreed to meet him at a restaurant on Tuesday, July 22. She also gave him some prescription strength antidepressant pills. On Tuesday, she never showed up for the date. On July 23, Carter drove by Reed’s house and saw Reed’s car and Pafford’s truck parked in front of the house. He left and went home.
Carter took the pills Reed had given him and drank four or five glasses of whiskey. He had been up since the previous night, well over 30 hours, but could not get to sleep. Carter testified that he “just wanted to know why” Reed was seeing Pafford while still having intimate relations with him. At approximately 11:30 p.m. on July 23, 2002, Carter called Reed. Reed’s 14-year-old son, Richard, answered the phone and told him his mother was not there. Having just driven by, Carter knew that was a lie. Carter drove to Reed’s house. As he got out of his truck at her house, he took with him a .22-caliber rifle he kept in the back seat of his truck. He testified that he did so because he wanted to use the gun as a way to get answers and that he had no intention to shoot anyone. Carter had bought the rifle in December 1977 while stationed with the Air Force in Oklahoma. It was a loaded 16-shot semi-automatic rifle that already had one round in the chamber.
As he approached the home, Pafford and Reed came outside. “… as I was approaching the door, it was real dark, and the door came open, and Mr. Pafford walked out, and Liz Reed was standing in the door at that time. . . . And then I asked Liz Reed, I said, ‘Liz, why are you still coming to see me if you’re seeing Mr. Pafford too?’ And then Mr. Pafford said, “Are you still seeing him?” And Liz Reed said, ‘No,’ and she did like I was crazy, a motion like I was crazy. And then Mr. Pafford said, ‘Do you want me to stay?’ And Liz Reed said, ‘No, I just want both of you to leave.’ I told her I’m not leaving until I get some answers. She already had opened it, but she opened it more for me to come in, and I’m not sure if she opened it for Mr. Pafford too, but I know he came in.” Because of the darkness, neither Pafford nor Reed saw the rifle, which the defendant was holding by his side to hide as much as possible.
Once inside, Reed saw the gun and grabbed it with both hands and tried to pull it from Carter. They struggled as Courtney, Reed’s 16-year-old daughter, came into the living room. Richard, who was in his room, heard a single shot then a female saying, “Call 911. Oh my God, call 911.” He thought it sounded like his sister, but said it could have been his mother who called for help, and he later testified he was uncertain who it was. Richard then heard more shots. Richard testified he ran into the room with his BB gun. He saw his sister Courtney on the floor. He tried to talk to her but she only made gurgling sounds. His mother was lying against the wall. He stepped over his sister and went to his mother. His mother wasn’t moving and wasn’t making any noise. Mr. Pafford was behind the couch. He could tell that Mr. Pafford was also dead. Richard called 911.
A rescue unit responded and took Courtney to a hospital where she died two days later. Reed and Pafford died instantly. The chief medical examiner, Dr. Margarita Arruza, testified that Pafford died from three gunshot wounds to the head. Pafford’s body exhibited no defensive wounds. Reed died from two gunshot wounds, both to her left ear. Dr. Areford performed the autopsy on Smith’s body, and testified that Smith died of a single gunshot wound to the head. Carter returned home and then fled to the Mexican border in Texas. By August 5th, he was at the Rio Grande River in Texas. He left his truck on the American side, threw the murder weapon in the river, and tried to cross into Mexico, but the Mexican military stopped and arrested him.
He was released some days later and went to the Central American countries of Belize and Guatemala. Detective Charles Ford of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Department testified he went to Texas to recover the defendant’s truck, and he supervised a dive team that recovered the defendant’s rifle from the Rio Grande. FDLE forensic technicians determined that the cartridges found at the crime scene came from the recovered rifle.
Carter returned to the United States. He worked in Kentucky as a roofer, under an assumed name. Eventually Carter was arrested by the Kentucky State Police. He claimed that the shooting of Courtney Smith was an accident and that the murders of Glenn Pafford and Elizabeth Reed were not premeditated.
Carter was sentenced to death in Duval County on December 22, 2005.