UPDATED: 10:25 a.m. ET, March 16
Originally published on March 14
A Mississippi sheriff is backtracking and now claims his department has not ruled out foul play in the mysterious death of a young Black father last year.
Smith County Sheriff Joel Houston denied a coverup in the death of Rasheem Carter, 25, whose remains were found after going missing in Mississippi last year. Autopsy results made public this week found that Carter had been decapitated with evidence of other significant injuries.
“Nothing is being swept under the rug,” Houston insisted to NBC News on Tuesday. “There’s nothing to hide.”
NBC News reported that Houston “has not ruled out the possibility of murder.”
Houston’s comments came more than four months after the Smith County Sheriff’s Office said it had “no reason to believe foul play was involved” in a Facebook post published the very next day after Carter’s remains were found. Carter’s family has said he told them he was being stalked, harassed and threatened by several unidentified white men in the area.
A newly released autopsy report for a Black father whose remains were found after going missing in Mississippi last year is fueling speculation that he was the fatal victim of a lynching in a case that is being compared to Emmett Till.
Rasheem Carter‘s family claims he had been targeted prior to going missing last October, but the local police still quickly decided that “no foul play” was involved. The autopsy results as reported by WJTV suggest otherwise.
On Nov. 2, Carter’s skeletal remains were found decapitated with evidence of other significant injuries, according to civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who announced the autopsy findings during a press conference on Monday in the capital city of Jackson. Prior to Monday’s announcement, little was known about the condition in which Carter’s body was found.
“His head was severed from his body,” Crump said Monday. “His vertebrae, his spinal cord was in another spot they discovered away from his severed head.”
Crump also described Carter’s death as “a Mississippi lynching in 2022.”
Co-counsel Carlos Moore said the “horrific” death was reminiscent of a landmark case credited with sparking the civil rights movement decades ago.
“I’ve been a Mississippian all 46 years of my life, and I have never heard of a crime this horrific in my life,” Moore said at the press conference. “I was not living during the time of Emmett Till. I heard about that, and read about it in the history books, but I thought we had progressed in Mississippi.”
Carter was last seen outside of a Super 8 Hotel on Oct. 2 in Laurel, about 30 minutes outside of Taylorsville, where the 25-year-old had been contracted to work. According to reports, his remains were found on private property in a wooded area in Taylorsville. Carter’s family says he was threatened and stalked by white men in the area before he disappeared.
According to the family, the day before Carter’s disappearance he went to the police department in Taylorsville and informed officers that men were after him and that he feared for his life.
Carter didn’t have a car at the time and asked the police for a ride to the Super 8 hotel in Laurel, but officers refused, telling Carter it was outside their jurisdiction, the family said. He returned to the police station again on foot early the next morning pleading with the police to help him, but once again they refused, the family said.
He allegedly informed his mother that there were white men after him and that if something were to happen to him to start the investigation there. “He did speak with his mom Tiffany about a white truck and white males in there threatened to harm him,” his cousin, Shonda Wright told WLBT. “He did give her the names.”
The family described the details of events after Carter went missing in a Facebook post.
According to the post, the day before Carter’s disappearance he went to the police department in Taylorsville and informed officers that men were after him and that he feared for his life, but officers turned him away. He returned to the police station the next morning but was refused again.
He informed his mother that there were white men after him and that if something were to happen to him to start the investigation there. “He did speak with his mom Tiffany about a white truck and white males in there threatened to harm him,” his cousin, Shonda Wright told WLBT. “He did give her the names.”
He was never heard from again.
The very next day after Carter’s remains were found, the Smith County Sheriff’s Office said in a Facebook post that there was nothing suspicious.
“At this time, we have no reason to believe foul play was involved, but the case is still under investigation,” the Smith County Sheriff’s Office said on Nov. 3. There was no immediate indication that the police department has changed its position, even with the autopsy findings.
The family started a GoFundMe account “to help defray the cost in seeking justice” and “to help alleviate the financial stresses that have been accrued throughout this process.” As of Tuesday evening, more than $16,000 of the $25,000 goal had been raised.
Carter leaves behind a six-year-old daughter.
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