The suspect in Sunday’s triple murder near Danville returned to the scene of the crime the next morning to get clothes as the two-day manhunt for him was just beginning, according to a search warrant filed by Decatur police.
For at least some of the time police were searching for him he was hiding in a cave, they said in affidavits, and a chewing tobacco purchase may have helped authorities locate him and the woman who allegedly helped him elude police.
Carson Ray Peters, 58, faces three counts of capital murder in the deaths of his wife, Teresa Lynn Peters, 53, of Danville; and her sister, Tammy Renee Smith, 50, of Danville; and James Edward Miller, 55, of Lacey’s Spring, Smith’s boyfriend. Carson Peters also allegedly shot Louise Kenney, the mother of the two women who were killed. Kenney was in stable condition at Huntsville Hospital as of Tuesday.
April Peden Hanner, 44, of Hartselle, faces a felony charge of first-degree hindering prosecution for allegedly helping Carson Peters elude law enforcement until he turned himself in at Riverwalk Marina on Tuesday to U.S. marshals.
In an affidavit filed Thursday, an investigator said Carson Peters confessed to dropping the firearm used in the shootings in a wooded area near 97 Flint Creek Private Drive, which is "to the east of the cave Peters hid in after the incident." The executed search warrant indicated police found some clothing, but no gun.
Kenney, wounded, called Morgan County 911 at 6:54 p.m. Sunday, according to police. Police arrived to find the two deceased women inside the residence at 68 Flint Creek Private Drive. The property is owned by Carson Peters, according to Morgan County tax records. Teresa Lynn Peters was residing in the home while the two were separated and going through a divorce, according to court documents.
Police found Miller’s body on the front porch of 70 Flint Creek Private Drive, a house trailer located directly behind the house where the women were found, according to an affidavit by Decatur police Detective Michael Kitchens. Miller died “from a gunshot wound to his head,” Kitchens wrote.
During the response to the 911 call, Decatur police Officer Lee Hogan saw Carson Peters driving a maroon 2007 Jeep Wrangler, according to Kitchens’ affidavit.
“Officer Hogan was able to get to the vehicle in the driveway of 97 Flint Creek Private Drive unoccupied. Carson had fled the vehicle prior to Officer Hogan arriving,” according to Kitchens. “Officer Hogan was able to see a gun holster in plain view in the front of the Jeep.”
Foot patrols and a helicopter were used by multiple law enforcement agencies near Flint Creek Private Drive late Sunday in the effort to locate Peters, who investigators now believe was hiding in the nearby cave.
Upon executing a search warrant on the Jeep, police found an SCCY pistol in the overhead compartment; two holsters; three magazines; three boxes of cartridges, one of them empty; and a pouch of cartridges.
Four hours after the 911 call, detectives met with Hanner, who left the Police Department after providing “a written statement about her involvement in the incident,” according to an affidavit by Detective Sean Mukaddam.
That would not be their last contact with Carson Peters’ girlfriend.
According to police affidavits, Carson Peters was living in a Puma camper trailer located behind his son’s house on Bell Springs Road in Falkville. A search of the trailer at 11:50 p.m., five hours after the 911 call, revealed nothing of interest.
Police cleared the Flint Creek Private Drive crime scene at 3:30 a.m. Monday.
“It was discovered, through witnesses, Peters contacted (another) male. ... Peters wanted (the other individual) to pick him up but he refused. Peters told (the individual), he returned to the crime scene after law enforcement left to get new clothes,” Mukaddam wrote.
Despite already having spent hours at the Flint Creek Private Drive residence, Mukaddam sought and received a search warrant to return to the scene.
“Peters’ son, Scotty Peters, told detectives the gun safe inside the residence was his father’s,” Mukaddam wrote in requesting the search warrant. “When Peters returned to the residence to get clothes it is possible the murder weapon could be inside the residence or safe. Furthermore, the clothes worn during the commission are more than likely inside the residence and should be retrieved which could contain biological or forensic evidence.”
It was not clear from court documents whether the search revealed any evidence.
At 9 a.m. Monday, Scotty Peters contacted Mukaddam and told him Hanner had driven away in a truck owned by Carson Peters and kept at the son’s property. The son said he believed she had taken the truck between 4 and 6:30 a.m. Scotty Peters and Mukaddam both tried to call Hanner, but she did not answer, according to the detective’s affidavit.
A BOLO issued by authorities Monday for Peters and Hanner said they “are possibly driving a black 2013 Chevrolet 1500 pickup.”
That afternoon, Mukaddam “obtained information of a Facebook post by April Peden,” which he noted in an affidavit was the name appearing on Hanner’s drivers license. In reviewing the Facebook page, he found a post she had made at 2 p.m. Monday, while numerous law agencies were searching for her and Carson Peters. Mukaddam said the account was deactivated Tuesday morning, but he included the text in a search warrant affidavit seeking account information from Facebook.
“I just want to let everyone know I don’t have a gun because the police have my gun,” she posted, according to Mukaddam. “I’m looking for Carson and yes I’m driving his truck because the police have the keys to my car. I’m safe and no he is not with me and I have turned my phone off because I’m tired of people calling me I love y’all. If and when I find him I’m going to get him to turn himself in he is not a dangerous people!!!!!!”
In executing various search warrants at the Flint Creek Private Drive residences, police found numerous weapons.
In one search, they found a .22-caliber revolver on the nightstand of the master bedroom, where they also located five boxes of cartridges. Police found a cartridge in the driveway, two in the master bedroom, and cartridge cases on the patio, in the master bedroom, in the dining area and in the guest bedroom. Bullets were found on the patio and the guest bed.
In a separate search Monday afternoon, apparently of the gun safe, they found 15 firearms, both rifles and handguns.
U.S. marshals arrested Hanner on Tuesday afternoon in Piedmont shortly before Peters turned himself in to marshals at Riverwalk Marina in Decatur.
Court documents give a hint as to how Hanner was tracked down and why police suspected her of assisting Peters in his escape. A search of her financial records, according to Mukaddam, showed that the morning after the shootings she purchased Copenhagen chewing tobacco and three drinks.
"This was verified by video surveillance at the business," Mukaddam wrote in an affidavit. "Through witness statements, Peters' choice of chewing tobacco is Copenhagen. Additionally Peters asked another person to get him chewing tobacco but they refused to assist him."
Peters' preliminary hearing is scheduled in Morgan County District Court on June 8.
According to her obituary, Teresa Lynn (Smith) Peters is survived by her mother, three daughters and six grandchildren. She was the office manager at Valley Budweiser, and managing partner Wade Weaver said she had been there almost 11 years.
“She was one of the most dependable employees I’ve ever had, and she’s one of the most kindhearted people I’ve ever met,” Weaver said. “Anytime she knew about somebody being in need she would rally all the employees around here to help them. She would be the leader of that happening.”
Tammy Smith was survived by her mother, a daughter and two grandchildren. She worked at Value Village in Decatur until a few years ago, and a manager of the store remembers her fondly.
“She was a hard worker and got along with all of us. We enjoyed having her here. We can’t believe what happened,” said Judy Davis. “She would come visit us every once in a while. She’d come in with her mom and her sister. We knew all of them. You could tell they all loved each other.”
Services for both Tammy Smith and Teresa Peters will be today at 3 p.m. at Peck Funeral Home, with visitation beginning at noon.
James Edward Miller's obituary says he's survived by his ex-wife, Faye Miller, two daughters, two brothers, a sister and four grandchildren. A celebration of life service for Miller is planned for 3 p.m. Saturday at Roselawn Funeral Home in Decatur. It will be preceded by visitation beginning at 1 p.m.