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Crimes of the Cape Fear: 25th anniversary of Shan Carter murders

Victims included 8-year-old killed by stray bullet
They’d break into victims’ homes in the middle of the night, and terrorize their families
Published: Jan. 19, 2022 at 12:16 PM EST
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - It was a terrifying crime spree with no end in sight. Shan Carter and K’Wada Temony thought they’d found the perfect mark: drug dealers. They could score tens of thousands of dollars in cash in a single robbery, plus drugs that could be sold for additional profit on the street. An added bonus: the victims were unlikely to call police for help since they were criminals themselves.

Carter and Temony used a strategy of shock and awe. They’d break into victims’ homes in the middle of the night, and terrorize their families.

“They would wear ski masks, they would cut phone lines, they would kick in the front door and then they would find the people in the house who knew where things of value were hidden. Drugs, jewelry, guns, and obviously money,” District Attorney Ben David recalled. “And they would literally threaten the lives of the people inside those houses. Usually the families of the drug dealer, until they would say where those things were hidden. And so torture was frequently involved.”

Donald Brunson was one of the victims. On December 6, 1996, Carter and Temony learned Brunson had just won over $10,000 in an illegal dice game, and decided to take that money for themselves. Brunson, his girlfriend Ana Santiago, and her son, Carlos, awoke to intruders holding them at gunpoint in their own home. They were ordered to lie down on the master bedroom floor, and the beating began.

Brunson was beaten until he was knocked unconscious. At one point, his ruthless attackers hit him in the face with an iron, knocking out his front teeth, and making him swallow them as his girlfriend and her son watched. Brunson was dragged outside, and placed in the trunk of Santiago’s car. His nearly nude body was found the next day, shot in the back.

“[They] drove him out to Holly Shelter Road, executed him. Then tried to light the car on fire, including the ski masks. The car did not light properly and so we were ultimately able to recover the ski masks. This case happened December… but it was unsolved. In fact, the family in that case did not call 911 initially even when their loved one was kidnapped, and they knew he was in danger. They called their family and that family ended up calling 911,” David said of the case.

Other victims of Temony and Carter’s crime spree included Keith Richardson and Ty Baker. During the Baker hit, they managed to steal $35,000 in cash.

Street justice

As you might imagine, these men wanted their money back, and Baker was willing to take the law into his own hands to get it. A volatile situation followed, with people being kidnapped in an attempt to gain information, and shots being fired in the streets.

On February 16, 1997, this street justice claimed an innocent life. Carter and Temony drove their car to a grocery store at 10th and Dawson Streets near downtown Wilmington, and started dealing drugs in a crowd of about a dozen people gathered outside the store. Baker was visiting a friend nearby, and saw Carter, but Carter didn’t notice him until Baker attacked him, knocking him to the ground.

Baker continued the hostile confrontation, with a jacket slung over his arm. Carter claimed to think Baker was armed, and decided to shoot him in self-defense.

“I didn’t want to shoot first; I wanted to go ahead and do what I had to do before [Baker] did it to me,” Carter would later testify. “So I went ahead and pulled my gun out and I shot at him.” After Carter fired the first shot, Baker ran, and Carter chased after him firing bullets.

Around the corner, 8-year-old Demetrius Greene was heading to his mother’s car for a ride to the toy store. The trip was a reward for making good grades. Demetrius hopped in his mother’s front seat, parked about 100 feet from the grocery store, about the same time Baker came running around the corner with Carter chasing after him while firing shots.

Two of the bullets hit Baker as he ran across the street near the Greene’s car, ultimately killing him. A third bullet went through the car windshield, striking the steering wheel and then ricocheting into the side of Demetrius’ head. He died instantly.

“I think people just don’t care anymore. That person is happy that [their intended victim] is dead. They don’t care about the people who have to mourn,” Demetrius’s mother, D’April Greene told reporters after her son was killed by a stray bullet.

“There are consequences for doing nothing — which is what happened here,” David said of the tragedy where no one had turned Carter in to police before the February 16 shootout, even though he’d already killed somebody, and tortured others. “This is the ultimate example of the cost of silence, where if we had the community’s cooperation leading up to it, this child would’ve never died.”

Even after Demetrius was killed in broad daylight in front of a large crowd, people weren’t cooperating with police. But investigators got enough information from Demetrius’ mother, D’April Greene, and other witnesses to at least identify Shan Carter as the shooter. He and Temony were arrested two days later, found hiding out in a hotel room.

The trial

As detectives began to dig in on the case, they finally connected Carter and Temony to Brunson’s killing, too. Temony pleaded guilty to all three shootings, and was sentenced to 115 years in prison. Carter decided to take his chances at trial.

Fresh out of law school, and working as an assistant district attorney, the case was David’s first-ever murder trial. He convinced a jury to give Carter a life sentence in Brunson’s murder. When it came time to try Carter for killing Baker and Greene, the jury showed no mercy. Carter received the death penalty for each murder.

“The law says that hate follows a bullet — which means that if I intend to shoot you, and accidentally shoot someone that I’ve never met before, like a little child, you are just as guilty for premeditation and deliberation with a shot that went awry, than as if it was directed toward him to begin with,” David explained.

More than two decades later, Shan Carter remains on death row. He still proclaims his innocence in Brunson’s death, claims self-defense in Baker’s death, and says Greene’s death was simply a terrible accident.

“I would do anything to bring Demetrious Greene back. I would give my life to bring his life back,” Carter told WECT in an exclusive interview before a 2015 appeal for a new trial. A judge denied his request, and upheld his death penalty conviction, which came as a relief to the victims’ families.

“Tyrone Baker don’t get to wake up another day, Donald Brunson don’t get to wake up and see another day. We can’t wake up and see their faces anymore. We have to go and put flowers on they grave and look at a tombstone if we want to see them, so no, Shan Carter does not deserve to live another day,” Brunson relative Brenda George told WECT.

A year after the murders, the park near the spot where 8-year-old Greene was shot and killed was renamed in his honor. To this day, the community continues to put flowers there to honor him.

David expressed regret that a quarter of a century after these senseless deaths, police and prosecutors still struggle to get witnesses in some neighborhoods to cooperate after a crime.

“It’s frustrating for all of us to see that we haven’t learned from our history and that history is repeating itself when we still have the same distrust. When we still have the same lack of cooperation,” David explained. “There are many good people living in the neighborhoods that are eaten up by crime, and they are desperate for the police and prosecutors to succeed in cases like this, because it’s their children who are getting caught in the crossfire and wake up to gunfire on an almost daily basis.”

David hopes that remembering the innocent lives lost, like Demetrius Greene, will remind people of the need to speak up.

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