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Emilia Lily CARR

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 
 
 
Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Jealousy and betrayal
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: February 15, 2009
Date of arrest: March 24, 2009
Date of birth: August 4, 1984
Victim profile: Heather Strong, 26
Method of murder: Suffocation (placed a plastic bag over her head)
Location: Marion County, Florida, USA
Status: Sentenced to death on February 22, 2011
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Murder of Heather Strong

In February 2009, Heather Strong was kidnapped and murdered in Marion County, Florida. Her killer, Emilia Lily Carr, was found guilty in December 2010 and sentenced to death by lethal injection in February 2011.

Carr is one of four women on death row in the state of Florida. Another suspect, Joshua Fulgham, Strong's husband, was also convicted of first-degree murder and kidnapping in her death and is awaiting sentencing. He received two consecutive sentences of life in prison without parole.

Background

Emilia Lily Carr was born Emilia Yera, the second of three sisters. A psychologist estimated her IQ to be 125. At the age of 15, she reported abuse by her father to her school, but withdrew her statement to officials.

In February 2004, Carr's father was convicted of attempting to solicit the murders of his family and was sentenced to four years in prison. Carr had been married twice and filed a restraining order against one of her ex-husbands for domestic violence. She was sentenced to two years of probation for her involvement in her ex-husband's grand theft of exotic birds. Carr had three children at the time, one of them with ex-boyfriend Jamie Acome.

In November 2008, Carr became engaged to Joshua Damien Fulgham, who instead married Heather Strong one month later. However, Carr maintained contact with them and babysat Strong's two children, according to Carr's family.

In January 2009, Fulgham was arrested for threatening Strong with a shotgun, but was released after the charge of aggravated assault with a firearm was dropped. Investigators later discovered that Carr had threatened Strong with a knife to force her to withdraw her criminal complaint. Carr and Fulgham re-established their relationship while Strong began seeing someone else. Fulgham and Strong became involved in a legal battle over the custody of their two children.

Murder

In February 2009, Heather Strong, then a 26-year-old resident of Citra, Florida, disappeared while employed at an Iron Skillet restaurant at a Petro gas station next to Interstate Route 75 in Reddick. She was reported missing on February 15. Her remains were discovered on March 19, in a shallow grave by a storage trailer in Boardman, near McIntosh, Florida.

Carr was arrested on March 24, after investigators noted the frequency of her statements to authorities, ten in all without the presence of an attorney. Detectives also recorded undercover audio of Carr discussing details of the crime with Fulgham's sister.

Carr, who at the time was seven months pregnant with Fulgham's child, tricked Strong into the storage trailer behind the home of Carr's mother Maria and placed a plastic bag over her head after unsuccessfully trying to break her neck. Strong eventually died of asphyxiation while bound by duct tape to a computer chair. Strong's estranged husband Joshua Fulgham was arrested on suspicion of fraud for using her credit cards after she had disappeared.

Later in March 2009, Carr gave birth to her fourth child while in custody at Marion County Jail; all of her children were placed in foster care. Carr provided a confession to investigators, but claimed that she had only done so in the hope of being reunited with her children.

Trials of Emilia Carr and Joshua Fulgham

Emilia Carr and Joshua Fulgham waived their right to a speedy trial during their arraignment for murder in April 2009. Prosecutor Rock Hooker immediately filed notice of his intent to pursue the death penalty because of the heinous nature of the crime.

In November 2009, State Circuit Judge Willard Pope declined Emilia Carr's request for a continuance of the trial because of her concerns over the preparedness of defense attorney Candace Hawthorne. A jury found Carr guilty of first-degree murder and kidnapping after two and a half hours of deliberations on December 7, 2010.

During the penalty phase of the trial, Carr's family testified on her behalf that she had been traumatized since her early childhood by sexual abuse from her father and grandfather. However, the jury voted 7-to-5 on December 10 in favor of the death penalty for Carr. She was formally sentenced to death by lethal injection on February 22, 2011.

More than a year after Carr's conviction for the murder of Heather Strong, her co-defendant Joshua Fulgham went on trial for his alleged participation in the murder in April 2012. Carr, on death row at the Lowell Correctional Institution Annex, would not testify at the trial.

The prosecution detailed the gruesome aspects of the crime. Both the prosecution and Fulgham's defense attorneys agreed that the motives for Heather Strong's murder were jealousy and betrayal. At the conclusion of his trial, Fulgham was convicted of first-degree murder and kidnapping. Despite the death sentence of his co-defendant, Joshua's jury voted 8-to-4 to sentence him to life in prison without parole and the judge followed the jury's recommendation.

Carr was placed in the annex at Lowell Correctional Institution in Marion County on February 23, 2011. She is one of four women on death row in Florida, the other three being Tiffany Cole, Margaret Allen and Ana Marie Cardona. Carr also became the first woman to be sentenced to death in Marion County since the 1992 sentencing of Aileen Wuornos.

 
 

Emilia Carr Receives Death Penalty

WCJB.com

February 22, 2011

The last time a Marion County Judge gave a woman the death penalty was back in 1992. Aileen Wournos was executed ten years later.

Tuesday, Judge Willard Pope sentenced 26 year-old Emilia Carr to death.

Carr was convicted of kidnapping and murdering Heather Strong, a mother of two, in February, 2009.

Today Carr's mother was in disbelief.

"A mother's worst nightmare," Maria Yera told TV20. "I didn't think she was going to get the death penalty."

The prosecution contended Carr and Joshua Fulgham, Strong's estranged husband, lured Strong to a trailer in the back of Carr's mother's house one February night.

There, the prosecutors said, Carr tried to break Strong's neck before Carr and Fulgham placed a bag on Strong's head, ultimately suffocating her. Strong's body was later found by detectives in a shallow grave near the trailer.

The defense proclaimed Carr's innocence, painting a troubled youth hurt by misguidance and abuse. In an exclusive in-jail interview, Carr, a mother of four, told TV20 she did not kill Strong.

But Tuesday, the defense's case was not enough for the Court to spare Emilia's Carr's life. Carr is now the second woman in the State on death row.

Her case will be automatically appealed to the Florida Supreme Court.

Carr's alleged accomplice, Joshua Fulgham will also face trail, which was expected to begin in March.

 
 

Death sentence for Emilia Carr

By Suevon Lee - Ocala.com

February 22, 2011

Emilia Carr became only the second woman currently on Florida's death row on Tuesday after she was given the state's highest punishment for her role in the kidnapping and murder of a Citra woman nearly two years ago.

The imposition of the death penalty by Circuit Judge Willard Pope — his first — came two months after a jury recommended, by a 7-5 vote, that Carr, 26, receive death for the 2009 crime.

"This court is compelled to conclude that the actions of Emilia Carr in this case, and the manner, means, and circumstances by which those actions were taken, requires the imposition of the ultimate penalty," Pope read aloud from his 29-page order during a nearly hour-long proceeding attended mostly by law enforcement and representatives from the State Attorney's Office.

Carr, who was sentenced to death for first-degree murder and to a consecutive term of life in prison on the kidnapping count, looked resigned upon the announcement. She then read a brief statement to the court in which she claimed she was "convicted of telling a lie."

Her sentence is subject to an automatic review by the Florida Supreme Court. Attorneys on Tuesday seemed divided on how the state's high court would eventually rule on the case.

"I'll be interested to see if the Florida Supreme Court affirms the judge's decision. I don't think it will," said Carr's court-appointed defense attorney, Candace Hawthorne, referring specifically to the fact that the jury's death recommendation was based on a slim majority.

State Attorney Brad King, on the other hand, called Pope's ruling "appropriate."

"I think it will be [affirmed]. Looking through other cases, the Florida Supreme Court regularly has upheld cases where [such] aggravators [applied]."

Pope assigned great weight to three aggravating circumstances: that the murder of Heather Strong, 26, was committed during the commission of the separate felony offense of kidnapping; that it was especially heinous, atrocious and cruel; and that it was cold, calculated and premeditated.

The only statutory mitigator to which he assigned great weight was Carr's lack of criminal history. He gave other such non-statutory mitigators — such as her disadvantaged upbringing, sexual abuse by her father and the alleged dominant role of her co-defendant in the crime — little to no weight.

He said there was "no evidence" Carr was manipulated by Joshua Fulgham, her then-boyfriend, and that testimony from a clinical psychologist proved she's "in control of her own faculties."

Pope only assigned some weight to the 7-5 recommendation from Dec. 10, pointing out that, by statute, even this slim majority is sufficient to lead to imposition of the death penalty, particularly in a case with such "overwhelming evidence."

"May God have mercy on your soul," he told Carr at the conclusion of the hearing.

Fulgham, 29, appeared in court himself before Carr's sentencing for a brief status hearing. The father of Strong's children, and also her estranged husband, Fulgham is awaiting his own trial on the same charges. His trial, in which the state also seeks a death sentence, likely will be pushed back until later this year due to attorney complications.

The co-defendants, who were dating at the time and have a child together, are accused of having lured Strong into a storage trailer behind Carr's mother's home in Boardman, near McIntosh, then duct-taping her down to a chair before suffocating her by placing a plastic bag over her head.

Strong's body was placed in a shallow grave and unearthed a month later in March 2009.

The three people were involved in a quasi love triangle, with Fulgham upset about Strong's intentions to move back to Mississippi with their two children. The couple had reconciled in December 2008, causing Fulgham to kick Carr out of the house.

Testimony revealed that Carr once threatened Strong with a knife shortly before her disappearance in order to expedite Fulgham's release from jail in a separate matter.

Carr confessed to the murder in statements to detectives, who caught her spilling the details of the murder to Fulgham's sister during a secretly recorded face-to-face conversation.

In her statements to the court Tuesday, Carr portrayed her relationship with her boyfriend's estranged wife in a favorable light.

"I cared for her in a way only another woman could understand. I never loved a man, I honestly don't know how," she read.

Carr is the first woman to receive the death penalty in Marion County since serial killer Aileen Wuornos, who was convicted here and eventually executed in October 2002. The only other woman currently on death row is Tiffany Cole, 29, who was sentenced in Duval County in March 2008 for her role in the double murder of a Jacksonville couple.

Carr's mother, Maria Zayas, who attended the sentencing hearing, said she was hoping for life in prison with no chance of parole, the only other punishment Carr could have received for first-degree murder.

She called the death sentence her "worst nightmare."

"From a mother's point of view, it was a shock," she said.

 
 

Emilia Carr Breaks Silence

WCJB.com

December 13, 2010

She is convicted of kidnapping and first degree murder, possible facing the death penalty.

Breaking her silence, Emilia Carr spoke from inside the Marion County Jail.

The 26 year-old claims she did not kill Heather Strong.

"I thought that when people saw the trial that they would know that I have nothing to do with this," Carr said.

On February 15th, 2009, Heather Strong, a mother of two, was murdered in Boardman. Her body was found a month later buried in a shallow grave in the backyard of Carr's mother's house.

Strong's husband, Joshua Folgham and his then-pregnant girlfreind, Emilia Carr were arrested in connection to the murder.

During Carr's recent two-week-long trail, prosecutors told a story of a love triangle turned deadly, placing Carr inside the trailer where Strong was suffocated to death.

But Carr claims that she was unaware Fulgham and Strong were in her mother's storage trailer the night Strong was killed.

"I was never there, and then the police questioning me, first thing they started doing was threatening me with my kids."

Unbeknown to Carr, Marion County Sheriff's Detectives were listening in on a conversation between Carr and Folgham's sister in which Carr places herself inside the trailer and makes herself out to be a participant in the murder.

"I was trying to get all these details 'cuz they kept wanting details before they would go to the State Attorney's with immunity," Carr said. "Details, details, so I made up stories."

Now possibly facing death row, Carr said she feels confused about the grounds on which she was convicted.

Marion County Judge Willard Pope will decide whether Carr will receive life in prison or the death penalty on February 22nd.

 
 

Carr jury votes 7-5 to recommend death penalty

By Suevon Lee - Gainesville.com

December 10, 2010

By a slim majority, a jury on Friday recommended that Emilia Carr be put to death for kidnapping and murdering young mother Heather Strong last year.

After deliberating for two hours, jurors voted 7-5 for the death sentence over life in prison without parole.

Circuit Judge Willard Pope must give this recommendation great consideration when he imposes a sentence on Carr on Feb. 22.

He will first preside over a hearing on Jan. 11 to give the defendant's family one last opportunity to plead for a life sentence.

If Pope chooses to sentence Carr to death, she will be the first woman in Marion County since serial killer Aileen Wuornos in the 1990s to receive capital punishment.

"I think the jury did a very good and thorough job in evaluating the circumstances and arriving at a verdict," said State Attorney Brad King, chief prosecutor in the case. "I think the judge will do what he believes is appropriate [at sentencing]."

The jury's advisory sentence marked the conclusion of a two-week legal proceeding that began with Carr standing trial for the gruesome killing of Strong, a mother of two.

Carr and boyfriend Joshua Fulgham are accused of luring Strong to an abandoned storage trailer behind Carr's mother's home in mid-February 2009. Fulgham was married to Strong, but the couple were estranged at the time.

During Carr's trial, prosecutors showed videotape of Carr admitting to detectives that she pulled the tape while Fulgham ripped it and bound Strong to a computer chair.

Carr also admits to placing a black plastic bag over Strong's head and trying to break her neck but failing to do so because Strong was struggling too hard.

Strong was eventually suffocated. Her remains were discovered on March 19, 2009, in a shallow grave on the property.

Carr was the first of the pair to head to trial; Fulgham is scheduled to go to trial early next year.

The state sought the death penalty because of the prolonged and brutal manner in which Strong died.

"Those evils go to the very heart of our independence and dignity," King told jurors during Friday's closing arguments in the penalty phase. "That's the evil we are looking to punish."

He presented as aggravating circumstances the fact that the murder was especially heinous, atrocious and cruel; that it was cold, calculated and premeditated; and that it took place during the commission of the separate offense of kidnapping.

The jury, consisting of seven women and five men, was asked to decide whether these factors outweighed the mitigating circumstances, which included Carr's lack of a criminal history, her young age at the time of the crime and her troubled family history stained by allegations of sexual abuse by her family.

In her closing argument, defense attorney Candace Hawthorne stressed her client led a life full of promise but for the molestation she suffered until she was a teen.

"For a small child to keep that secret, she had to engage in fantasy to take her away — she learned to fantasize," Hawthorne said. She maintains her client lied to detectives when she confessed to participating in Strong's murder in order to reclaim the three children that had been taken from her by state officials.

 
 

Guilty verdict for woman accused of first-degree murder and kidnapping

Gainesville.com

Dec. 7, 2010

Emilia Carr, the woman who has stood trial over the past week on charges she helped carry out a cold, brutal attack on Citra resident Heather Strong last year, was convicted of first-degree murder and kidnapping late Tuesday afternoon.

A jury deliberated two and a half hours before delivering a guilty verdict.

The same panel of seven men and five women will hear arguments about Carr’s punishment early this afternoon during the penalty phase of trial. The state seeks the death penalty; the only other option for first-degree murder and kidnapping is life in prison.

“I’m relieved,” Carolyn Spence, Strong’s mother, who traveled from Mississippi to attend the trial, said Tuesday after the verdict was published.

Neither State Attorney Brad King, the lead prosecutor, nor Carr’s court-appointed defense attorney, Candace Hawthorne, offered comment following the jury’s decision.

Since Wednesday of last week, jurors sat through testimony where the state attempted to prove Carr’s role in the disappearance and murder of Strong – a mother of two who worked as a cashier/server at the Iron Skillet restaurant at the Petro gas station near the Orange Lake/Irvine exit of I-75.

Unlike other first-degree murder trials, Carr’s has stood out for the sheer frequency with which the defendant provided statements to law enforcement in the lead-up to her March 24, 2009 arrest – about a week after Strong’s remains were discovered in a shallow grave in Boardman, a few miles north of McIntosh.

Those statements, freely and voluntarily given, albeit outside the presence of an attorney, were seized by state prosecutors over the last week as they mounted their case against Carr.

Totaling 10 statements altogether, those words would land Carr in a predicament she attempted to wriggle free from when she took the witness stand Monday afternoon and claimed those statements had been spun from lies.

“What is her history of telling the truth?” prosecutor Rock Hooker asked the jury during his closing argument Tuesday morning. “Her history of telling the truth is not good…are you going to believe her now?”

Hooker pointed out that Carr’s consecutive statements to detectives prior to her arrest had been different from her previous ones, each slightly amended to reflect Carr knew more than she initially let on.

Carr was accused of assisting co-defendant Joshua Fulgham, her then-boyfriend, with detaining Strong – his estranged wife – inside a storage trailer behind Carr’s mother’s home in mid-February 2009.

The state claims Carr then tried to break Strong’s neck. When that failed, the pair allegedly placed a black plastic bag over Strong’s head and suffocated her, all while the victim was duct-taped to a computer chair, her hands and feet bound.

In his closing, Hooker advised the jury the state had no duty to prove a motive in the brutal crime – only that it proved, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Carr had the intent to either kill her herself or assist her co-defendant in killing Strong.

The jury Tuesday had the option of finding Carr, 26, guilty of the lesser-included offenses of second-degree murder, third-degree murder, manslaughter and false imprisonment.

“I’m glad it’s over with. I’m glad justice has been served,” said Larry Spence, Strong’s stepfather, who knew Heather since she was a young girl. “I think [Carr] was guilty.”

As jurors heard testimony from multiple witnesses over the past week, several possible motives bubbled to the surface: Carr’s possible jealousy over a brief reunification between Fulgham and Strong in December 2008; her spite toward Strong for having put Fulgham in jail in January 2009 following a domestic dispute; or loyalty to her boyfriend (Carr was seven months pregnant with Fulgham’s child when the crime occurred.).

“Emilia Lily Carr, in this case, blocked Heather Strong from leaving,” Hooker said of her role in the storage trailer. “That’s all in the statements she gave.”

Carr divulged details of the crime to Fulgham’s sister, Michele Gustafson, during a conversation that was bugged by detectives. Carr later admitted to law enforcement that she participated in the episode.

“ ‘He held her down because he was stronger. I taped her hands and feet,’ ” Hooker read out loud to the jurors, reading from a transcript of Carr’s statements to the detectives.

Fulgham, 29, also fathered two children with Strong, whom he first met in Mississippi. He is currently awaiting his own trial on the same charges.

During her nearly two-hour closing argument, Hawthorne painted her client’s statements as “lies” so she could reclaim custody of her children, who had been removed by the state Department of Children and Families.

“Stupid? Maybe. Desperate? Maybe. Duress? Maybe. Was she afraid of Josh? Maybe,” Hawthorne told jurors to consider in weighing such motivation to lie.

But Hooker, who has co-tried this case with King, pointed out in his rebuttal argument early Tuesday afternoon that Carr simply knew too many details of what the victim had been wearing before she died and the specific manner in which she died - before such facts had been released - to be merely passed over as a scared and witless suspect.

“Those are some pretty direct, simple statements,” he said to jurors.

 
 

Carr jury hears chilling words from the accused

By Suevon Lee - Ocala.com

Friday, December 3, 2010

There is no physical evidence linking her to the crime, but in this case, none may have been necessary. In a conversation captured clearly on tape, Emilia Carr confesses to assisting with a brutal crime that took the life of a 26-year-old Citra woman in 2009.

That hourlong tape was played back for jurors Friday afternoon during Carr's first-degree murder and kidnapping trial. It is one of many recorded conversations prosecutors have played for the panel this week, and it may be the most convincing one of all.

“I thought it would be quick and painless,” Carr said to Michele Gustafson, the sister of Joshua Fulgham. Carr was referencing her and Fulgham's attempts to first break Heather Strong's neck inside a storage trailer before suffocating her with a black plastic bag placed over her head.

“Did she fight him?” asked Gustafson, who was wearing a recording device provided by Marion sheriff's detectives. At the time of the conversation, the women were sitting beside each other in a car.

“Yeah, she fought him,” Carr responded.

“Did you help?” Gustafson continued.

“Yeah, I helped,” Carr said softly. “I helped him.”

Following this March 24, 2009 conversation, detectives, who were listening nearby, approached the car. They spoke briefly with the pair, then eventually took Carr into custody.

The echoes of Carr's vivid and confessionary words to Gustafson, a friend of hers, seemed to linger in the courtroom.

The jurors have been provided written transcripts of the recorded calls, so their facial expressions and reactions have been difficult to gauge. Their heads were bowed over the stapled papers as the recordings were played.

The state is almost ready to end its part of the case. The defense will call its first witnesses next week as it attempts to lessen the damaging evidence — mostly confessional statements — that has been introduced by the state thus far.

Carr, 26, could face the death penalty if found guilty as charged.

She is accused of helping Fulgham, who fathered her youngest child and was also Strong's longtime on-again-off-again love interest, with Strong's murder.

Strong, a mother of two, was first reported missing by her cousin in mid-February 2009. A month later, on March 19, 2009, her body was uncovered from a shallow grave a couple miles north of McIntosh. It was Fulgham who initially led detectives to the site, which was located on the wooded property behind Carr's mother's home.

Fulgham, who remains behind bars awaiting his own trial, was already in police custody on a related charge when the body was unearthed.

Carr wasn't arrested in the case until March 24, 2009, managing to elude arrest for almost a week as she negotiated and engaged in verbal gymnastics with sheriff's detectives Donald Buie and Brian Spivey, seeking to distance herself from the gruesome crime.

It's Carr herself whom jurors learned this week initiated much of the contact with law enforcement after they initially brought her in for questioning. She was read her Miranda rights during these interviews. Spivey testified Friday morning she placed several calls to his work mobile phone in order to wrangle a deal.

“I can put the nail in the coffin as long as I don't go to jail or prison,” she tells Spivey during a phone call several days before her arrest. She continuously asks for “immunity” if she divulges additional information about Strong's death.

“I need to know I'm protected,” she says in this recorded phone conversation, played for jurors Friday morning. “I'm not going to say anything without immunity, because I'm going to go down with him [without it]. I didn't kill the girl,” she says.

Although court-appointed defense attorney Candace Hawthorne attempted to suppress Carr's statements ahead of trial, Circuit Judge Willard Pope ordered redactions only.

Hawthorne emphasized in her opening statement Carr's high-risk pregnancy at the time of her arrest, and the fear and concern she felt over the welfare of her three other children, who had been taken from her by then by the state Department of Children and Families.

Such concern for her children is expressed by Carr to Gustafson during their taped conversation. So is her spoken intent to pin Strong's death on Jamie Acome and Jason Lotshaw, two convicted felons and mutual friends whom she tells Gustafson have already been identified as persons of interest by the authorities.

“I'm not saying it's OK, not in the least,” she says of her so-called plans to lead law enforcement to these two men. “[But] the only way he [Fulgham] is gonna get out there and be with his kids, is if he keeps his mouth shut,” she says, in attempts to send a message to Fulgham.

What Carr does not let on is her previous statements to detectives, in which she's already pinned Strong's death on Fulgham; yet across the Sheriff's Office hallway, in separate interrogations, Fulgham was doing the same to her.

Both were arrested for Strong's disappearance and murder on March 24, 2009; they were indicted by a grand jury less than a month later. Although Carr was offered a life sentence plea deal by prosecutors shortly before trial, she refused to accept the offer.

The defendant, who has closely followed along with written transcripts of her statements during the course of trial, comes across as calm in these recordings, if shaken by past events.

To Gustafson, she speaks of how Fulgham hit Strong in the head with a flashlight every time “he heard something he didn't want to hear.” Strong was lured to the trailer by the promise of cash, she said, and Fulgham was upset she had plans to flee the state with their two kids.

“He said, ‘You've cost me a lot of money, you've cost me my kids, you cost me just about everything I've ever had, and I'm tired of it.' ” Carr recollects.

After she goes over the details of how he duct-taped Strong to the chair after she tried to bolt by breaking a window, and the pair's hasty attempts to end Strong's life, Carr's voice grows quiet.

“He wasn't Josh that night,” she tells his sister. “He was emotionally in another place. It wasn't Josh. He wasn't there. He was just somebody else."

 
 

Opening statements in McIntosh-area murder trial

Gainesville.com

December 1, 2010

A defendant's panicked statements to sheriff's detectives and a hasty decision to confide in a friend: These are the crucial events prosecutors referenced Wednesday at the start of Emilia Carr's first-degree murder and kidnapping trial.

In opening statements to jurors Wednesday morning, State Attorney Brad King spent nearly an hour detailing the sequence of events that led to the gruesome discovery of Heather Strong's decomposing remains one March 2009 morning in a backyard lot near McIntosh.

Carr, 26, is charged with helping co-defendant Joshua Fulgham carry out Strong's murder.

Using a written timeline beginning in December 2008 and ending March 24, 2010, when Carr and Fulgham were taken into police custody, King told the jury about the rocky relationship between Fulgham and Strong, one which involved a cast of secondary characters that included Carr and other men in the women's lives.

Carr would often babysit for Strong's two young children, he said, and such encounters led to one past incident in which Carr allegedly held a knife to Strong's throat to scare her into signing paperwork to release Fulgham from jail.

Although Strong and Fulgham were longtime friends -- they had two children together but married as recently as December 2009 -- it was Fulgham and Carr who were romantically involved at the time of Heather's death. In fact, Carr was seven months' pregnant with Fulgham's child at the time.

Whatever their commitment to one other, King told jurors that Carr had told detectives it was Fulgham who allegedly threatened to do the same to her that he said he had done to his estranged wife: strangle her, then bury her body.

Later, after Strong's body was unearthed, said the prosecutor, Carr requested a private meeting with Fulgham's sister in which she revealed the manner in which Strong was killed: suffocated with a bag over her head after Carr tried and failed to break her neck. That conversation, unbeknownst to Carr, was recorded by law enforcement.

In a sign that this trial could hinge on jurors' interpretation of Carr's videotaped confessions, her defense attorney cautioned the jury in her opening statement to be mindful of Carr's stress levels when she provided her statements.

Saying Carr was "as much of a victim as Heather," Candace Hawthorne reminded the jury that Carr was undergoing a "high-risk pregnancy" when questioned and that her three other children had recently been removed from her custody.

Tossing the blame and intent back onto Fulgham, who remains in custody at the jail as he awaits his own trial on the same charges, Hawthorne cast him as a jealous and possessive man who wanted Strong, who was tied to other men, all to himself.

"Josh and Heather were like oil and water," she said. "They had a very tumultuous relationship. This is all about Josh and his kids and his control of Heather and his wanting custody of his kids." Strong's mother, Carolyn Spence, sat in the back of the courtroom.

If found guilty as charged, Carr could face the death penaty.

 
 

Update: Jury seated in Emilia Carr murder trial

Ocala.com

Nov. 30, 2010

After nearly two days, a 12-member jury was seated 3 p.m. Tuesday for the Emilia Carr murder trial.

The entire panel consists of eight men and six women -- two will serve as alternates.

Opening statements were scheduled to begin shortly.

Defendant in murder trial refuses life sentence plea deal.

Still little is known about Emilia Carr, the 26-year-old woman standing trial on charges of first-degree murder and kidnapping in the disappearance and eventual killing of Heather Strong, a young mother from Citra, in the early months of 2009.

But a decision she was faced with last week, as lawyers convened to discuss procedural matters ahead of trial, may say at least one thing about her: She won't so easily back down.

Carr, who faces the death penalty if convicted, was given the opportunity to accept a life sentence and erase any chance of receiving the state's maximum punishment.

“The state told the court that if Ms. Carr wanted to sign an agreement for life, they would go to the victim's family and see if they approved,” Candace Hawthorne, Carr's court-appointed attorney, said Monday during a recess in jury selection.

That lawyers spent all day Monday trying to select the 12 individuals, plus two alternates, who will serve on the jury is a reflection of Carr's decision to forgo the state's offer and accept the risks.

By the end of the day, no jury had been seated. Jury selection resumed Tuesday.

Carr is the first of two people to be tried for the death of Strong, a mother of two who worked at the Petro gas station and was 26 when she went missing in February 2009. Her body was unearthed from a shallow makeshift grave outside a storage trailer near McIntosh a month later.

She had been deprived of oxygen flow to the brain. The official cause of death was asphyxiation.

Prosecutors claim Carr and then-boyfriend Joshua Fulgham lured Strong into a storage trailer in Boardman, placed a plastic bag over her head and tried to break her neck, constricting her airway when that failed.

Fulgham, 29, is Carr's co-defendant and also the purported father of her child, whom Carr delivered shortly after being booked into jail after her arrest.

He will be tried at a separate date on charges of first-degree murder, kidnapping and organized fraud for allegedly using Strong's credit cards during the period of her disappearance. As Strong's estranged husband, Fulgham had a history of exhibiting domestic violence towards his spouse and may have felt burdened in the victim's waning days by child support payments.

It's such clues that will guide State Attorney Brad King and prosecutor Rock Hooker this week as they attempt to convince jurors that Carr, the new woman in Fulgham's life at the time, was complicit in devising a scheme to remove Strong from the picture.

Dozens of potential jurors faced the standard line of questioning Monday by King, Hawthorne, and clarifications posed by Circuit Judge Willard Pope, who will preside over the trial.

They were asked about everything from their views of the death penalty to the more mundane details of their lives, such as their hobbies, employment history, or past dealings with law enforcement.

A nine-page questionnaire was distributed to the pool Monday morning, touching on such subjects as political and religious beliefs; civic work in the community; and familiarity with the criminal justice system.

While such pre-voir dire questionnaires have been used before, Hawthorne said the detailed handout was crucial, “to help us narrow the field because we have a lot of information to go over with [jurors]."

 
 

Woman's murder trial under way

Ocala.com

Nov. 30, 2010

Still little is known about Emilia Carr, the 26-year-old woman standing trial on charges of first-degree murder and kidnapping for the disappearance and eventual killing of Heather Strong, a young mother from Citra, in the early months of 2009.

But a decision she was faced with last week, as lawyers convened to discuss procedural matters ahead of trial, may say at least one thing about her: She won’t so easily back down.

Carr, who faces the death penalty if convicted, was given the opportunity to accept a life sentence and erase any chance of receiving the state’s maximum punishment.

“The state told the court that if Ms. Carr wanted to sign an agreement for life, they would go to the victim’s family and see if they approved,” Candace Hawthorne, Carr’s court-appointed attorney, said Monday during a recess in jury selection.

That lawyers spent all day Monday trying to select the 12 individuals, plus two alternates, who will serve on the jury is a reflection of Carr’s decision to forgo the state’s offer and accept the risks.

By the end of the day, no jury had been seated. Jury selection resumes today.

Carr is the first of two people to be tried for the death of Strong, a devoted mother of two who worked at the Petro gas station and was 26 when she went missing in February 2009. Her body was unearthed from a shallow makeshift grave outside a storage trailer near McIntosh a month later.

She had been deprived of oxygen flow to the brain. The official cause of death was asphyxiation.

Prosecutors claim Carr and then-boyfriend Joshua Fulgham lured Strong into a storage trailer in Boardman, placed a plastic bag over her head and tried to break her neck, constricting her airway when that failed.

Fulgham, 29, is Carr’s co-defendant and then-boyfriend. He is also the purported father of her child, whom Carr delivered shortly after being booked into jail after her arrest.

He will be tried at a separate date for first-degree murder, kidnapping and organized fraud for allegedly using Strong’s credit cards during the period of her disappearance. As Strong’s estranged husband, Fulgham had a history of exhibiting domestic violence towards his spouse and may have felt burdened in the victim’s waning days by child support payments.

It’s such clues that will guide State Attorney Brad King and prosecutor Rock Hooker this week as they attempt to convince jurors that Carr, the new woman in Fulgham’s life at the time, was complicit in devising a scheme to remove Strong from the picture.

Dozens of potential jurors faced the standard line of questioning Monday by King, Hawthorne, and clarifications posed by Circuit Judge Willard Pope, who will preside over the trial.

They were asked about everything from their views of the death penalty to the more mundane details of their lives, such as their hobbies, employment history, or past dealings with law enforcement.

A nine-page questionnaire was distributed to the pool Monday morning, touching on such subjects as political and religious beliefs; civic work in the community; and familiarity with the criminal justice system.

While such pre-voir dire questionnaires have been used before, Hawthorne said the detailed handout was crucial, “to help us narrow the field because we have a lot of information to go over with [jurors]."

 

 

 
 
 
 
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