SUFFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – Three people charged in connection with the murder of longtime Suffolk furniture store owner Donald Carter appeared in court Tuesday for a preliminary hearing.
After just one witness testified and a detective provided documents, a judge determined he had heard enough evidence that a crime was committed and sent the case to a grand jury.
Leon Hayes, Naomi Lambert, and Katron Walker are charged with first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit robbery, attempted robbery, and gun charges. Detectives say, based on their interviews, the three either planned or participated in an attempted robbery on Washington Street, during which someone shot and killed Carter. Police, however, have never said who pulled the trigger.
According to transcripts from the police interviews, Katron Walker said, “I never knew he was that nice of a person. That’s why it eats me up.” The transcripts show Walker told detectives he was trying to get money from Carter and didn’t shoot on purpose. He said Carter was tussling with him, Walker flinched, the trigger went off, and he took off running.
In Lambert’s interviews, she told police, “This is too much. I know for a fact I did not do anything.” Lambert told police that night Carter gave her and two women a ride and they went to Taco Bell, where Carter paid for food. Court documents indicate Lambert told police the group later went to Carter’s Furniture Store, where Carter was drinking and trying to pay for sex. She said she declined, eventually left, and later heard gunshots.
A witness testified Tuesday that Lambert referred to a “lick” that night, which is slang for a robbery. The witness said Lambert made a phone call from inside Carter’s store, and that he/she saw Hayes and Walker heading in the direction of the store, not long before hearing gunshots. The witness testified that he/she later heard Hayes ask Walker why he shot Carter.
According to court paperwork, Hayes directed police to a house where they would find a gun. Outside the courthouse Tuesday, his father defended him.
“My son’s not a murderer, and I will stand by it. I didn’t raise him that way,” Leon Hayes Sr. said.
Hayes’ attorney declined to comment. WAVY News left messages with attorneys for Lambert and Walker, but they have not responded. Donald Carter’s brother, David, who was present at the hearing, also declined to talk about the case.