Rasheem Carter, a 25-year-old Black father who went missing late last year, was found with his head severed from his body and separated from his spinal cord, which was found in a different location near Taylorsville, Miss.
The Smith County Sheriff’s Office originally ruled that there was no foul play in the death of Carter, whose remains were first found in November, but now say they are still investigating along with the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation.
According to Carter’s family, Carter felt he was in danger as he tried to find a way back home to Laurel, Miss. from work in Taylorsville, a majority-white city. Civil rights attorney Ben Crump, the family’s attorney, described Carter’s death as a “modern-day lynching.”
“This was not a natural killing. This was not a natural death. This represents a young man who was killed,” Crump said during a press conference in March. Now Crump is calling on the Department of Justice to open a federal investigation into Carter’s death.
What happened to Carter?
The chain of events began on Oct. 1, when Tiffany Carter, Rasheem Carter’s mother, received a call from her son that he felt unsafe. “My son told me it was three truckloads of white guys trying to kill him,” she said during a press conference.
She advised her son to go to the local police station and ask for help in Taylorsville, but she says they did not help him.
Authorities confirmed that Carter came to the police station asking for help. Taylorsville Police Chief Gabe Horn, who has not responded to requests from Yahoo News, told local news outlet WDAM that the officers couldn’t help Carter or give him a ride home due to staffing issues and liability concerns.
“He told the officer that night that he and his roommates had a verbal disagreement and he felt threatened and that was it,” Horn told WDAM. “[Rasheem] did tell the officer that night that was up here that he had a ride coming and the officer advised him, ‘You’re more than welcome to stay’ [at the police department].”
But according to Carter’s aunt, the police did not allow him to stay there.
“He asked if he could sit around until his ride came. They didn’t know that my sister was on the phone and could hear them: ‘This not no hotel, you can’t stay here,’” Felicia Kaho, Carter’s aunt, told Yahoo News.
Carter’s mother says the police failed her son, “I told him to go to the police station because I felt in my heart they would serve and protect like they are obligated to do,” she said.
The final photo
On the day Carter was reported missing, camera footage showed him shirtless in a wooded area in Taylorsville, holding a large branch.
“Seeing the image of him on someone’s hunting camera is disturbing, because he did not have a shirt on at the time, which indicates that he had been running or [was] overheated,” Mississippi state Rep. Christopher Bell told Yahoo News.
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Carter’s mother says she believes the photo proves that her son was in trouble and “running for his life.”
But Smith County Sheriff Joel Houston, told Insider that Carter is the only one seen in the footage that they have reviewed from that day. “It doesn’t show anybody else present,” he said.
On Nov. 2, a month after Carter went missing, some of his remains were found in the woods near Taylorsville, where he was last seen.
According to Crump, authorities emailed the family to notify them of the discovery.
“At first, when the first of Rasheem’s remains were discovered with his head decapitated from his body, officials told the family that it was animals that killed Rasheem. Officials later said that they believed he was murdered,” Crump said in April.
The first set of Carter’s remains were found just a few days before his funeral, according to the family. “They only had like 15 bones, they had a skull and like a rib bone and a clavicle and a mandible,” Kaho said.
In February, another set of Carter’s remains were found in Smith County, and last month additional remains were found, according to Crump.
“They have recently found remains that they believe are also Rasheem Carter at another part of where he went missing, and what that tells us is, this was a nefarious act. This was an evil act. Somebody murdered Rasheem Carter. And we cannot let them get away with this,” Crump said.
Last week, Crump and his legal team were notified of a fourth set of remains from a bystander who captured on video police discovering what seems to be human remains.
“There is no excuse for bystanders coming showing video to the family, and officials not having the dignity and respect to notify the family immediately, and say ‘We found more human remains in the vicinity where your son’s head and spinal cord and other bodily remains were found,’” Crump said.
Still, Carter’s family doesn’t have all of his remains. “Where are the rest of his remains? We have  bones in our body. And we only got 15 or 20. That’s like a whole body somewhere still out there,” Kaho said.
Family demands federal probe
As the case continues to develop, Carter’s family is calling for a federal investigation. In March, Sheriff Houston told CNN that local authorities are still investigating. “To this date, we do not have evidence of foul play but everything is on the table. Until we turn over every stone, it’s still an open investigation,” he said.
As the family awaits additional answers, You Are the Power, a national nonprofit, announced a $50,000 award for tips that lead to a conviction for Carter’s death.
“Mississippi, all of America is watching to see if you’re going to do right by Rasheem Carter,” Crump said. “His brokenhearted mother has nightmares at night about what her son must have been doing as a result of this lynching in 2022.”
Kaho says she believes that eventually the truth will come to light. “They can stop telling us [no foul play]. We will never settle for that. Never.”
While sometimes small local law enforcement agencies lack resources, Bell says that is not an excuse in the investigation of Carter’s death.
“We also have the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation, who also comes in and investigates cases like this, as well as the FBI. So these are agencies that are very capable of doing the investigation and finding out what happened in this case,” he said.