SUFFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Two suspects in the homicide investigation of the owner of Carter’s Furniture Inc. appeared in Suffolk court Tuesday morning.
Leon Jerome Hayes, 33, and Naomi Nichelle Lambert, 22, were each charged Monday evening with first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit armed robbery, two counts of use of a firearm in the commission of a felony and attempted armed robbery, according to police spokeswoman Diana Klink. They are being held without bond.
Both arrests follow an intensive investigation after 82-year-old Donald Carter was found dead near his business early Monday morning.
Police say without the public’s assistance, the suspects would not have been identified or caught. Klink said additional charges may be filed.
Klink said officers responded to a call for a shooting on East Washington Street, near Franklin Street, shortly after 1 a.m. Carter was found with a gunshot wound to his lower body and was unresponsive. He was transported to Sentara Obici Hospital where he was pronounced dead, Klink said.
Police searched a nearby trashcan and a lot next to the store for evidence.
Court documents said police talked to Hayes and Lambert and determined they were involved with planning the attempted robbery and were at the location of the attempted robbery, during which Carter was shot. The paperwork does not say who pulled the trigger.
Carter’s younger brother, David, who owns nearby Brandon House Furniture with his sister, said police called him early Monday to tell him his brother was murdered.
“It’s a shock. When you’re 82-years-old, I figured I’d get a call one day that my brother had had a heart attack or something like that, but for a police officer to call you at four in the morning and tell you that your brother’s been shot, has died, that’s a shock,” Carter said.
A Facebook post from the siblings’ furniture store read:
“Today we grieve the loss of the owner of Carter’s Furniture and our uncle, Don Carter. We appreciate all prayers and condolences during this difficult time. Please continue to keep the Carter family in your thoughts and prayers. Thank you for your support.”
David said Donald was married with three children and two grandchildren and was one of five siblings. He entered the furniture business with his father as a young man, and while the siblings had competing businesses, the competition was always friendly, he said.
“We were competitors, but we were brothers first, you know, and I loved my brother…He loved his store. He loved working at his store and I do too,” he said.
“I’ve just known Mr. Carter all my life because he owns the furniture store right here,” said Marsha Whitfield, a Suffolk woman. “He is just harmless as a fly. He wouldn’t bother a soul, and I just think it is a shame for somebody to kill him right where he is comfortable at because that’s where he used to be. I just think it is terrible.”
Jeanette Holland, who owns nearby Holland’s Produce, said she knew Carter her whole life. “He’d come in here about once a week and eat lunch … I bought furniture from him … When you’ve been in business as long as they have, they’re just well-respected,” Holland said.
Hayes’ mother, Deloris, said she did not know what happened, but asked her son about the case. “I asked him did he shoot anybody, he told me ‘no.’ That’s all I go by,” she said.
Lambert declined to talk about the case from jail. Hayes’ attorney would not comment on the case.
Hayes and Lambert are expected back in court in December.
Klink said Carter’s death is Suffolk’s first homicide in 2014.