Opening statements in McIntosh-area murder trial


Published: Wednesday, December 1, 2010 at 1:21 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, December 1, 2010 at 1:21 p.m.

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 penalty.

Contact Suevon Lee at 867-4065 or suevon.lee@starbanner.com.

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