Tonight’s episode of Accused: Guilty or Innocent? on A&E is the second of a two-part special on Jason Carter, an Iowa man who is accused of murdering his mother, Shirley Carter. The show has looked at a few complex and multi-faceted cases in other episodes, but this may be the most difficult one yet.
The show follows the trial and defense of Jason Carter, who is accused of killing his mother, Shirley Carter. The 68-year-old grandmother was shot twice in her kitchen on June 19, 2015, in Lacona, rural Iowa. What people watching the show may not know, however, is that Jason’s arrest and the criminal case took place only after a jury found him guilty in a civil case. His father, sister and brother filed a lawsuit against Jason on January 5, 2016, accusing him of murdering Shirley. Jason’s wife stood by him throughout the trial.
Here’s what you need to know about Jason Carter’s family:
1. He Is the Youngest of Three Children Born to Shirley and Bill Carter
Bill and Shirley Carter met in high school and married at a young age. In an article from the Des Moines Register, Bill said he was a junior and a linebacker on the high school football team when he asked sophomore Shirley to the homecoming dance. He said, “She was the prettiest thing I’d ever seen. I fell in love with her. I mean, she had me then.” They married on March 31, 1963, when they were very young; Shirley was 16, Bill was 17.
The two had three kids together, Jana, Billy and Jason. They started their family early. Shirley didn’t graduate high school because she had the first of their three children to take care of. In the months after Shirley’s murder, a headstone was placed at her gravesite, and it excluded Jason’s name, instead listing only her three grandkids and two other children, Billy and Jana.
2. Jason’s Father Bill Sued Him in Civil Court for Shirley’s Death
In the months following Shirley’s death, Bill said he became suspicious of his son Jason and started believing that he was responsible for Shirley’s death. He hired an attorney and a private investigator, which led him to believe that Jason was guilty. On January 5, 2016, Bill and his two other children, Billy and Jana, filed a wrongful death lawsuit. It alleged that Jason was having financial problems and he believed his family would no longer support him if they found out he was having an affair.
Bill said, “I wouldn’t have done this at all if I didn’t know. I still love my youngest son. I do love him, but I have to have justice for Shirley. I have to. I was really beginning to fear that we weren’t going to have justice for her.”
Bill Carter still lives in the farmhouse where his wife was killed, just half a mile from his son Jason. The two have an adjacent field and only see each other when they pass by one another on the road or are farming practically beside each other.
3. His Sister & Father Testified Against Him in Criminal Court
Jason was found responsible for his mother’s death in the civil case and was arrested and charged with first-degree murder a couple of days later. During his criminal trial in March 2019, his sister and father both testified against him. His sister, Jana Lain, took to the stand and said that Jason called her twice before calling 911. “He said, ‘I come in, and she’s laying here on the floor.’ I said, ‘Jason, did you call 911?’ And he said, ‘No. It’s too late. She’s cold. She’s stiff. She’s dead.'”
Bill Carter also testified for the prosecution, and he said that when he arrived at his house, he found that Shirley’s blood was still pooled and wet and it appeared that she had recently fed their pigs. He was emotional on the stand, saying he kissed his wife on the forehead. “They say your life can change in an instant — and it did,” Bill told the jury. “It changed, and it’ll never be the same.”
4. He Is Married to Shelly Carter, Who Has Stood By Him Throughout the Case
Jason met Shelly Carter when he was in college and she was still in high school. The two live in Knoxville, a town southeast of Des Moines in Marion County. Shelly is an elementary school teacher in Knoxville and Jason is a farmer. Shelly didn’t know about her husband’s affair until it was revealed by the investigation. She said it was devastating, but she’s chosen to forgive her husband.
Shelly took to the witness stand during Jason’s civil trial in 2017 and told the jury that the family was not struggling financially. Prosecutors were arguing that Jason and his family had financial difficulties as a motive for the crime. She also spoke about the affair and said that the two went through a lot of counseling and they had reconciled. She said, “Every day I work on forgiving, but never forgetting, because I don’t deserve that, and neither do my children.”
Shortly after Jason was acquitted, KCCI sat down with Shelly and Jason to talk about their return to normal life. The outlet asked the couple what they would say to Shirley today if they could talk to her. Jason said, “I miss you, Mom,” and Shelly added: “We’d like to thank her for everything that she did for us, with us and things that she taught us and our children.”
Jason and Shelly sent Heavy an emailed statement through their legal team about the case being profiled on A&E: “We appreciate the sensitivity A & E showed in covering our life over many months. We are grateful for the accurate depiction of this process. We are happy to be back to family and farming without cameras.”
5. He Has Two Kids With Shelly, a Son & Daughter
Shelly and Jason have two children, a son and daughter. The trial was difficult for the family; their oldest child was old enough to realize the severity of the situation but the youngest didn’t understand. When they got home after the trial, Shelly said, “We just went to see our kids and [our daughter] was, like, ‘Oh, you’re home! This is nice.’ and our son was just, like — he just didn’t let go of Jason.”
In June 2019, a few months after Jason was acquitted, Des Moines Register wrote that their son was 18 years old and about to move away for college on a football scholarship. Their daughter was 9 years old at the time. Shelly said although it’s been difficult, “when your kids are going to be OK, you’re going to be OK. And as horrific as all of this is, we are wiser and stronger as a family.”