LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Arron Lewis, the suspect in the abduction and slaying of Arkansas real estate agent Beverly Carter, told reporters Tuesday that he pleaded not guilty to the charges only because his lawyer told him to.
He said he wanted to plead guilty because he just wanted “this to be over with.”
Carter’s body was found in a shallow grave near Cabot, about 20 miles northeast of central Little Rock, the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office said early Tuesday.
As Lewis was escorted out of court Tuesday, he told reporters, including CNN affiliate KARK, that he wanted to plead guilty to the charges of kidnapping and capital murder, adding, “I just want this all over with.”
Asked if he would have pleaded guilty even facing the death penalty, which the sheriff’s office said prosecutors will seek, he nodded in agreement.
“I’m just sorry it all happened,” Lewis said. “I just want it all over with.”
The 33-year-old from Jacksonville, Arkansas, was arrested by authorities Monday.
“Lewis admitted … to kidnapping Beverly Carter, but would not divulge her whereabouts,” the sheriff’s office said. After he was booked into the Pulaski County Regional Detention Facility, investigators said they obtained information that led them to the property where the grave was located.
Lewis gave peculiar statements to reporters as he was led on a perp walk Monday night.
On video from CNN affiliates KTHV and KARK, police are shown leading Lewis, in shackles and dark prison scrubs, to a police car. Reporters ask him if he killed Carter. Twice, he says that he didn’t,
“I had a co-defendant. I haven’t seen her for two days. Now, they’re showing pictures of this. I haven’t seen her,” he says.
Asked to explain, Lewis repeats that he “had” a co-defendant and provides a man’s name, saying he’s in the military.
Questioned about his and the co-defendant’s relationship, he says, “He’s got texts back and forth to me and him, and then they wanted my phone.”
“Why Beverly?” a reporter asks.
“She was a rich broker,” Lewis responds.
Asked if he has anything to say to Carter’s family, he twice says, “Sorry.”
As officers place Lewis in the backseat of a squad car, a reporter asks again, “Why Beverly?”
“Because she was just a woman who worked alone, a rich broker,” Lewis says.
As the car door is closed, Lewis is asked one more time if he killed Carter, and again, he replies, “No.”
Carter vanished last week when she went to show a home in the small community of Scott.
The family released a statement thanking those who had joined in the search for Carter. The statement also seemed to blame Lewis for her disappearance.
“We are devastated at the loss of our precious Beverly. There is now a hole in our hearts that will never be filled. Mr. Lewis robbed us of an amazing wife, loving mother and grandmother. Her grandkids will never get to know the magnitude of her greatness,” the statement said. “We draw some comfort in knowing that she is now in the arms of Jesus. God bless you all.”
Police haven’t said how they linked Lewis to Carter or how they tracked him down, but they say Lewis left a hospital Sunday without notifying police while he was a person of interest in her disappearance.
Suspect was in wreck
Lewis, who was on parole, was in a traffic accident Sunday, and police arrived to find his automobile on top of a concrete culvert, according to an accident report from the sheriff’s office.
Lewis told police that a vehicle, which he couldn’t describe, had run him off the road. But a witness told police that he was behind Lewis before the accident, and “Lewis was traveling at a high rate of speed prior to the crash,” the report says.
Another witness told police that “the Lewis vehicle was going ‘so fast’ prior to the curve and she further stated that she observed the Lewis vehicle ‘fishtail’ around the curve, going into the ditch,” according to the report.
Paramedics took Lewis to Baptist Health Medical Center in Little Rock. A deputy followed the ambulance to the hospital to issue Lewis a citation for careless driving as well as not wearing his seat belt, because there was evidence Lewis hit the windshield during the crash, the report says.
At that time, Lewis was a person of interest in the Carter investigation, but he was not under arrest, Lt. Carl Minden said.
“While at the hospital and undergoing tests, Mr. Lewis left the hospital. He was not under the guard of law enforcement at that time due to not having any criminal charges at that point,” the lieutenant said in a statement.
The warrant charging him with kidnapping was issued later Sunday, he said.
Official: Agent’s cell phone used
The mysterious disappearance of the 49-year-old resonated among fellow real estate agents, who posted their fears on a Facebook page set up for sharing information about her case.
Carter’s last phone call to her husband came Thursday afternoon, telling him the address where she would be. When hours went by with no further word from her, Carl Carter says he “knew something was wrong.”
Before calling authorities, Carl Carter went to the address of the home Beverly Carter was showing and saw her brown Cadillac parked there, the sheriff’s office said.
Noticing the property was open, the husband entered and searched for his wife without success, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
There was activity on Carter’s cell phone after she disappeared, Minden said. Later he explained to HLN’s Nancy Grace that activity included text messages, but he declined to elaborate on the nature of the texts.
According to her employer’s website, Beverly Carter was married for 34 years and has four grandchildren.
“I feel like I’m in a fog, or a horrible nightmare from which I can’t awaken,” Beverly Carter’s son, also named Carl, wrote on a Facebook post before his mother’s body was found.
A Facebook page set up about Carter’s disappearance was followed by more than 28,000 people as of Monday afternoon.
Police say Lewis’ Monday arrest isn’t his first run-in with police. In addition to any charges he may face in Carter’s disappearance and death, he has a criminal history in northwest Arkansas that includes felony theft of property, obstruction of government operations, failure to appear and unlawful removal of a theft device, Minden said in a statement.
He’s also faced charges from the Kansas City police and the Utah Department of Corrections, he said.