Was alleged rape and shooting death investigation influenced by reality TV cameras?

"48 Hours" investigates what impact that TV show may have had into the search for clues in the death of a Georgia man and the murder case against the woman who shot him dead

Produced by Paul LaRosa and Elena DiFiore

In the early morning hours of Sept. 13, 2013, Victoria Rickman called 911 to report she had repeatedly shot her boyfriend, Will Carter Jr. She said he raped her. Rickman said she shot to stop the attack.

"I, of course, think this is going to be a self-defense case," Atlanta Police Department Detective Summer Benton tells Moriarty. "All I thought was, I want to shake her hand. She got a rapist off the street."

When she arrived on the scene, Det. Benton had a camera crew for a true-crime TV series, "Inside Homicide," in tow. Benton tells "48 Hours" correspondent Erin Moriarty something wasn't right with the scene. There were no signs of a struggle. "Nothing looked like what it should have looked like," Benton says.

Will Carter Jr. and Victoria Rickman

Will Carter Jr. and Victoria Rickman

Andrew Scarr

Carter's parents, in their first television interview, tell "48 Hours" that they knew their son and his girlfriend had a volatile relationship, and they warned their son that Rickman was trouble.

Six-and-a-half hours after the shooting, Rickman was arrested and charged with murder.

Prosecutors maintain that Rickman made up the rape to cover for shooting him. Her defense attorney, Amanda Clark Palmer, maintains that Benton made mistakes during the investigation and was guilty of a rush to judgment because she was being tailed by a TV crew. Clark Palmer cites several points Benton makes on camera that she says are not true.

 "Everything was done for a TV show and there was no real investigation," Rickman tells Moriarty.

Did the TV production have an influence on the investigation? Benton, a seasoned investigator, says the TV crew had no impact. "If she had been raped that night, then this would have been a justified shooting, and I would have written it up like that," Benton tells Moriarty. "But this was not a justified shooting. This was cold blooded murder."

The case raises questions about the investigative process when TV cameras are around, and exposes deep flaws in a relationship that ended in the death of a young father, who overcame addiction to become a successful businessman. It's an investigation that ultimately hinges on whether the shooting was done in self-defense or if it was premeditated murder.

A FATAL SHOOTING

Atlanta Police Detective Summer Benton has a name, a job and, some would say, an attitude made for television.

Erin Moriarty: Tell me about the Hat Squad.

Det. Summer Benton: The Hat Squad [laughs]. We're very proud of our hats. ... we have summer fedoras. We have winter fedoras, but you're not allowed to wear a fedora until you've solved your first homicide case.

In her 16 years on the job, Detective Benton has been the lead detective on 65 homicide cases. But it was the shooting death of Will Carter Jr., in the early morning hours of Sept. 13, 2013, that put the detective in the spotlight.

Atlanta Police Detective Summer Benton

Atlanta Police Detective Summer Benton

CBS News

As Benton investigated, video cameras from the reality show "Inside Homicide" were rolling. The TV crews were embedded with the Atlanta Police Department and were following the action that night:

FROM "INSIDE HOMICIDE"

Cop: You know a little about what's going on?
Det. Benton: OK so he's on the bed…there's a gun in the dresser drawer … and you've got spatter on the back wall and it's pretty high up which tells me the victim had to have been standing.

The shooter was Victoria Rickman, a 30-year-old divorced mother. She and Will Carter, also 30, met through mutual friends and dated for three years.  They bonded over their kids; Will had a daughter and Victoria a son, who were about the same age. 

Britni Morgan: …he was good around his daughter and she admired that about him. …They had a lot of things in common.

Rickman's friend, Britni Morgan, says at one point Victoria, a marketing consultant, and Will, a local businessman, moved in together and got engaged.

Britni Morgan: …she wanted to have a family … be married again and have that for her and her son.

But the relationship went off the rails. The couple had a lot of arguments and began living apart.

Britni Morgan: It was just back and forth, back and forth, just very toxic.

And then, just after midnight on Sept. 13, 2013, Will arrived at the house where Rickman was staying and Victoria told first responders he raped her. Victoria admitted shooting Will with a .40 caliber semiautomatic that was in her bedroom.

VICTORIA RICKMAN TO 911: I just kept shooting and shooting and shooting …       

911 OPERATOR: You shot him where?

VICTORIA RICKMAN [cries]: I shot him all over.

Rickman said she shot Will to protect herself. She fired nine times, hitting him every time.

At first Det. Benton says she was giving Victoria the benefit of the doubt. But then she called Will's father.

FROM "INSIDE HOMICIDE":

Det. Benton: Hi is this Mr. Carter? My name is Investigator Benton, I'm with the city of Atlanta Police Department. I've got some really bad news. …

William Carter Sr.: It was 5:30 in the morning and the phone rings twice … so you know that's not good.

William Carter Sr.: It was Detective Benton and she explained to me that our son had been killed by Victoria Rickman. …she did say, "right now this is a self-defense case and can you help me with some details?"

Erin Moriarty: When she said this was a self-defense case, what was your reaction?

William Carter Sr.: I mean, I about puked. I mean, it's like, "No, it's not, either."

Will's father told Detective Benton that a year earlier the couple was fighting and his son showed up bleeding.

William Carter Sr.: …she hit him in the head with a hammer and she bit him in the back … In fact I told Will after that incident, I said, "If she'd had a gun, she'd a killed you."

But Rickman told police that Will had tried to force her to have sex and that she used a hammer to fight him off. Will was arrested for sexual battery and simple assault. 

William Carter Sr.: Two weeks later, she's standing in our driveway with Will … so I said, "You can't ever come over here here again" …she just snapped. She got furious with me and said, "You can't tell me what to do." She said, "I have a gun and I know how to use it." It was like, "Whoa!"

Eventually, Rickman declined to press charges and the case against Will Carter Jr.  was dismissed.

And then in May 2013, four months before Rickman shot Will, there was an incident captured by Victoria on her cellphone as she tried to enter Will's house:

WILL CARTER JR. No, no no no no, no, no ... You are not coming into my house.

WILL CARTER JR.: Tori – I didn't tell you to be here. Get the f--- out of here. I'm scared of you.

VICTORIA RICKMAN: Why are you acting like this?

WILL CARTER JR.: All you are is a toxic web of lies. Stop it. I'm gonna call the f---ing police

VICTORIA RICKMAN: Do it.

This time, Victoria Rickman was the one arrested and charged with battery. Those charges were pending at the time of Will's death.

Detective Benton took into account what Mr. Carter had told her, and then the medical examiner discovered Will had three bullets to his back. After that, Benton no longer believed this was self-defense. 

Det. Summer Benton: What we truly believe happened is that he was standing and he was not facing her at the time.

Here's what police suspect may have happened:

carter-shooting-animation.jpg

Det Summer Benton: As he's lying on the bed … she is then finishing him off … firing more shots into his chest and his head.

CBS News/David Rosen

Det. Summer Benton: We believe he was standing next to the bed facing the window when he was shot in the back three times, which then one of those shots filled his lungs with blood, which caused him to cough, causing the blood spray pattern on the wall next to the window. And then we believe he fell back … onto the bed … As he's lying on the bed … she is then finishing him off … firing more shots into his chest and his head.

To Benton this was straight up murder.

Det. Summer Benton: There were no signs that she had tried to scratch him. Her nails were pristine. He had no scratches on his body. …I do not believe she was raped.

Rickman was given a rape exam. It showed she had intercourse, but there were no signs of internal injuries.

Hospital records noted bruising on Rickman's arm and leg, but that's not what Det. Benton told a prosecutor on that TV reality show.

FROM "INSIDE HOMICIDE" [Benton on phone with DeKalb County D.A.'s Office]

Prosecutor: Any indication from the hospital of any injuries to her at all?
Det. Benton: There's nothing. She has no scratches, no bruising…

By midday on Sept. 13, 2013, only hours after the shooting, Benton arrested Victoria Rickman.

Det. Summer Benton: I advised her that's she's being arrested for murder, and she simply says, "OK." That was it. No screaming up and down, "I'm innocent. I didn't do this."

Victoria Rickman arrest photo

Victoria Rickman arrest photo

Atlanta Police Department

While Rickman appeared stoic, back at the Carter home in Marietta, Georgia, William Carter Sr. and his wife, Caro, were shattered. They consoled each other and wondered -- as they had many times before -- about Will's fatal attraction to Victoria.

William Carter Sr.: It's as if nobody could have done anything. He just wouldn't listen to anybody about this.

Caro Carter: His biggest flaw was that he couldn't see the evil in her.

But if Victoria had personal demons, so did Will. Years earlier, Will had been arrested several times for property damage and drug use. William Carter Sr. admits his son had been a drug addict back then.

Erin Moriarty: Like what kind of drugs?

William Carter Sr.: I don't know … the doctor said it was more than something like marijuana, it was dangerous.

After 10 years of drug use, Will went into a rehab facility.

William Carter Sr.: He actually overcame his – addiction … and started his own business from scratch.

Caro Carter: I was extremely proud of Will … he never gave up … He didn't give up on anything.

Or anyone.

Erin Moriarty: What drew Will to somebody like Victoria?

William Carter Sr.: My sister, who's a psychologist, said "Victoria was his last addiction." …I don't think he realized how dangerous she was.

But Rickman insists Will was still the dangerous one. And only four months before the shooting, Victoria reported to police that Will had beaten her and she had documented it with photographs showing the bruises.

Britni Morgan: I think the constant abuse that she was going through … she just could not take it anymore.

Rickman went to court for a restraining order but the office was closed.  A deputy sheriff working there spotted her bruises. Later, for her own protection, he gave her a gun.

Det. Kevin Leonpacher: He encourged her to use that gun when it came to Will Carter.

VICTORIA RICKMAN'S STORY

After Victoria Rickman's 2013 arrest for the murder of Will Carter Junior, she was denied bail and held at the DeKalb County Jail in Decatur, Georgia.

Erin Moriarty: Do you think you should be on trial at all for anything?

Victoria Rickman: To be honest, no, I don't really think I've done anything illegal …

Jail officials would not let "48 Hours" interview Rickman face to face, but Moriarty spoke to her via an inmate video calling system:

Victoria Rickman: Everything was done for a TV show and there was no real investigation.

Victoria Rickman: I'm innocent of the charges that are alleged against me.

Rickman stuck to the story she told police -- that she was fighting off Will who had raped and beaten her: 

Victoria Rickman: Unfortunately, I have been … humiliated … dehumanized by the system publicly without my consent.

Erin Moriarty: Did you think your life was at risk?

Victoria Rickman: Of course … There's no doubt in my mind.

Rickman says, that night, Will was behaving erratically:

Victoria Rickman: ……he had relapsed and was intoxicated. And it was a very, very, very serious situation.

But no one will ever know if that's true because Detective Benton never requested a toxicology report. She says she didn't know it was her responsibility because this was her first homicide case in DeKalb County, which had a different set of procedures.

Det. Summer Benton: I had no idea that you have to specially request a victim's tox and blood alcohol. So even though they had taken his blood and held onto it, at some point they then disposed of it.

Erin Moriarty: So it was destroyed? The blood was destroyed?

Det. Summer Benton: From my understanding, it was. So it was never tested to see if – he … had been drinking or was on any type of -- prescription meds, illegal meds, I mean, or illegal narcotics, anything like that.

But Rickman does not believe that was a casual oversight. She thinks it was something far more sinister:

Victoria Rickman [to Moriarty]: I think it's huge that she … did not do a tox screen, knowing she was getting rid of evidence that was pertinent to my defense and to my innocence.

Det. Summer Benton: She's extremely good at trying to play the victim.

Benton may not have believed Rickman, but there was that one law enforcement officer -- Cobb County Deputy Sheriff Rick Price -- who did. Months earlier, Price had spotted a black eye and bruises on Rickman that time he met her at the courthouse. 

Det. Kevin Leonpacher: Rick Price -- gave Victoria a gun.

It was one of Price's personal guns, and the deputy even brought Rickman to a gun range to practice, says Atlanta Police Detective Kevin Leonpacher.

Det. Kevin Leonpacher: And lo and behold … she's used that very gun to shoot and kill Will Carter.

And right after the shooting, Rick Price was the first one she called.  He told her to call 911.

Det. Kevin Leonpacher: … when the phone records came back we found out that just before she called 911, Victoria called Rick and it was about a two-minute phone call.

Benton believes Price was just one more male caught in Victoria's web.

Det. Summer Benton: She was extremely good at getting the men to give her whatever she wanted.

Det. Kevin Leonpacher: Victoria Rickman was a very skilled manipulator.

Andrew Scarr is a life-long friend of Rickman and owns the house where the shooting occurred.

Early that evening, Rickman told Scarr she wanted to be alone and asked to stay at his mother's house. After he left, Rickman spoke on the phone with Will. Police don't know what was said but sometime after midnight Will showed up.

Erin Moriarty: When you're in here, you know that something happened between 12:20 and about 2:15 in the morning. What do you believe happened in here then?

Andrew Scarr: Oh, I believe her story 100 percent.

Erin Moriarty:  Did Victoria Rickman shoot Will in cold blood? Did she plan to kill him that night? Did she invite him over to kill him?

Amanda Clark Palmer | Defense attorney: She didn't invite him over. She didn't want him over there. She didn't plan to kill him. And she didn't murder him. I 110-percent believe she shot him in self-defense.

Defense attorney Amanda Clark Palmer says Victoria Rickman killed Will Carter Jr. after he raped her because he was still close enough to be a threat. 

Amanda Clark Palmer: For those shots they would have been somewhere within six inches to two feet of each other.

Clark Palmer demonstrated what she believes happened in a king-sized, four-poster bed that is similar to Rickman's. She insists the first shots were to Will's chest -- not his back -- as the police believe.

Amanda Clark Palmer: So he gets the two shots to his chest and then turns, he stands up and he coughs and gets the blood spatter on the wall and then gets the shots in the back and then sits down and falls back and as he's falling back she's still shooting.

Erin Moriarty: And so she shoots him two more times in the head.

Amanda Clark Palmer: Correct … he gets the shot through the nose that goes through the nose, chin, shoulder, arm, and then the shot to the head is the last shot, probably.

Amanda Clark Palmer: Was it a stressful, highly traumatic situation? The shots happened … the shots happened … within a matter of seconds … bam, bam, bam, bam, bam, bam right after. …It was "let me shoot until I think the threat is over."

While Clark Palmer was trying to make sense of the murder scene, investigators were taking a second look at all the evidence. No one had been able to crack the secret code on Rickman's cellphone, but a few months before the trial investigators made a crucial discovery.    

Det. Kevin Leonpacher:  We came across a piece of paper that said "phone code." And it had a four-digit code on it. …And the investigator punched it into the phone and, poof, it opened right up.

The phone spit out more than 66,000 texts -- some 4,000 pages worth sent and received by Rickman.

Erin Moriarty: So this was, like, a motherlode … of information?

Det. Kevin Leonpacher: Absolutely, it was a motherlode.

VICTORIA RICKMAN ON TRIAL

Paul Rickman, Victoria's father, has patiently stood by his daughter for nearly four years waiting for this day: Aug. 22, 2017, the day her trial for murder begins.

Paul Rickman: I'm hoping we get through with this and have it over and have her home.

Victoria Rickman faces life in prison for shooting her on again, off again boyfriend Will Carter Jr.

William Carter Sr: We miss him every single day. It's a big hole in the heart.

Will Carter's parents attend the trial to stand witness for the type of person Will was.

William Carter Sr.: Everything we've done is to get his reputation back and to be able to tell his story.

Sheila Ross, who has a reputation as one of the toughest prosecutors in Georgia, lays out the case against Victoria Rickman.

Prosecutor Sheila Ross: The evidence will show that she did not shoot William Carter Junior out of fear, but rather anger. …He and this defendant were involved in what could only be described as on-again, off-again toxic relationship---very Jerry Springerish.

Ross plays for the jury that cellphone video made by Rickman during the contentious visit to Will's house in May 2013 -- four months before the couple's fatal encounter:

WILL CARTER JR. ON CELLPHONE VIDEO.: Tori, I didn't tell you to be here. Get the f--- outta here dude I'm scared of you. All you are is a toxic web of lies….stop it.

Prosecutor Sheila Ross: You'll hear a lot out of her mouth that she's an abused woman, that she has PTSD. That she had been raped … You'll hear the tears and you'll see tears, so just be ready for it.  Well, we're gonna ask that you look past that. .. And we're going to ask you render a verdict that speaks the truth of what happened to Will Carter Jr. that night—which is nothing short of murder.  Thank you.

In court, Rickman's defense attorney Amanda Clark Palmer paints a very different view of the case:  

Amanda Clark Palmer | Defense attorney: This case … is about domestic violence. …he abused her physically, verbally and emotionally.

Amanda Clark Palmer: She felt like he was going to do something terrible to her based on the way he was acting … and based on the fact he said "I'm going to kill you."

The defense attorney never shows the footage from "Inside Homicide" to the jury fearing it will give them the wrong idea about Rickman.

Amanda Clark Palmer: Det Benton didn't come alone—

But she tells them all about it in her opening.

Amanda Clark Palmer: …and Det. Benton was the star…and she's narrating what she's doing for the cameras.

Amanda Clark Palmer: No one asked Victoria, who's just been raped, who's just shot and killed William Carter defending herself, if she's OK being on TV -- they just come over and start filming everything that's going on.

FROM "INSIDE HOMICIDE":

Det. Benton: From the looks of things, it doesn't appear there was a struggle.

Amanda Clark Palmer: What happens next is a rush to judgment in this case.

FROM "INSIDE HOMICIDE"

Det. Benton: …we got a lot of shell casings…

Amanda Clark Palmer: The police show up, they collect evidence. They're not as meticulous as I think they should have been.

FROM "INSIDE HOMICIDE"

Det. Leonpacher: Looks like she was training to kill.
Det. Benton: Wow.

Amanda Clark Palmer: She was justified in defending herself -- she was in fear for her life. And she's not guilty.

On the second day of testimony, Prosecutor Ross calls Detective Benton to the stand:

Prosecutor Sheila Ross: Did you observe any forced entry into the home?

Det. Summer Benton: No, I did not. 

Prosecutor Sheila Ross: Did you observe any injuries to her face?

Det. Summer Benton: No -- there were not.

Prosecutor Sheila Ross: Was her bra torn in any way?

Det. Summer Benton: No—it was not.

Prosecutor Sheila Ross: Did you look for signs of a struggle?

Det. Summer Benton: I did … I was unable to find that there were any signs of a struggle.

benton-trial.jpg

Det. Summer Benton takes the stand

CBS News

But the defense challenges that assertion:

Amanda Clark Palmer: And we can see the lamp on top of the nightstand, right?

Det. Summer Benton: Yes, ma'am.

Amanda Clark Palmer: Fair to say this lamp has been knocked over?

Det. Summer Benton: Yes.

Amanda Clark Palmer [to Moriarty]: It definitely looks like a struggle occurred there. It's not a neat and orderly room.

Amanda Clark Palmer [in court]: And we also see sound machine hanging down between the nightstand and bed, right?

Det. Summer Benton: Correct.

Prosecutor Sheila Ross: Did you find a firearm there?

Det. Summer Benton: We did.

Detective Benton is questioned closely about the gun used by Rickman:

Prosecutor Sheila Ross: What type of firearm was it?

Det. Summer Benton: It was a .40 caliber semi-automatic.

rickman-hero-left.jpg

The gun Victoria Rickman used to kill Will Carter Jr.

Atlanta Police Department

Detective Benton believed the gun could hold only 12 bullets.

At the scene, she found nine shell casings; four bullets left in the gun. That adds up to 13, so Benton concluded that Rickman had to have reloaded and shared her thoughts with the cameras:

FROM "INSIDE HOMICIDE":

Det Benton: …the gun doesn't hold 13 … for some reason, this girl – she did a tactical reload.

Amanda Clark Palmer: Wrong. The capacity of the gun is 13. Could not be clearer to anybody who knows anything about firearms.

Det. Summer Benton [in court]: I'm extremely proficient with a firearm.

The issue is crucial. Because, Benton says, if Rickman reloaded, she cannot claim self-defense.

Amanda Clark Palmer [to Moriarty]: Detective Benton thought that that was indicative of premeditation of murder.

Amanda Clark Palmer [in court]: You recognize now that the maximum capacity of this weapon is 13, right?

Det. Summer Benton: I realize that.

Amanda Clark Palmer: You didn't write that in your report.

Det. Summer Benton: No, I did not.

Erin Moriarty: Weren't you wrong about the reloading?

Det. Summer Benton: No. No, I was not.

Erin Moriarty: At this moment you have no evidence that she reloaded, right?

Det. Summer Benton: No.

Erin Moriarty: You just can't say that you made a mistake.

Det. Summer Benton: I don't believe I did.

Erin Moriarty: Did it ever occur to you that you might be putting wrong information and affecting potential jurors who see this show?

Det. Summer Benton: No.

FROM "INSIDE HOMICIDE"

Det. Benton: That means she had to have switched magazines.

Det. Summer Benton: This was a brand-spanking new show … I didn't know that part was gonna air or what was gonna air. I didn't see it until it aired the same day everybody else saw it.

Erin Moriarty: And did you then say, "I wish I hadn't done that"?

Det. Summer Benton: No.

Erin Moriarty [to Palmer]: What's your reaction to that?

Amanda Clark Palmer: It was incredibly unfair to Victoria.

As unfair as parading a rape victim before television cameras, says Rickman's lawyer. And then there's the information Benton says she got from the Cobb County District Attorney's Office that aired on "Inside Homicide":

FROM "INSIDE HOMICIDE"

Det. Benton: They stated that she has got such a long list of rape claims against so many men it's too big to email. They'll have to physically bring it me.

Amanda Clark Palmer: That wasn't true.

Det. Summer Benton:  Everybody makes mistakes. I'm not saying we didn't make any mistakes, I'm not saying Cobb County didn't make any mistakes. You know, we're all human.

Still, Detective Benton does not believe the misinformation from the show will affect the trial.

Det. Summer Benton: I think we have smart people out there and smart jurors out there … It doesn't matter what they may or may not have seen on television or on a television show.

Following Benton to the stand is her colleague, Detective Kevin Leonpacher.

Det. Kevin Leonpacher [in court]: I've developed another type of expertise that involves the analysis of cellphone records.

cellphone-evidence.jpg

Atlanta Detective Kevin Leonpacher says Victoria's Rickman's cellphone contained a "motherlode" of information

CBS News

Leonpacher performed the forensic examination of Rickman's cellphone. The detective zeroes in on the night of Sept. 12, 2013, just a few hours before the alleged murder:

Det. Kevin Leonpacher [in court]: There were several threads of communication, with call records and text messages between Miss Rickman's phone and other individuals.

Leonpacher says Will's texts to Rickman reveal he was furious because she had called the mother of his child. Will texts Rickman that he is breaking up with her. Leonpacher reads the text aloud in court:

Det. Kevin Leonpacher [reading]: "You are too dangerous to be around. Never contact me or mother of my child again…"

And in the text Will also says he's going to follow up on criminal charges against Rickman from that incident captured on the cellphone video.

Victoria Rickman may have feared an assault conviction would affect custody of her son. She begins sending texts to her friend Deputy Sheriff Rick Price, sounding more and more desperate about Will.

Det. Kevin Leonpacher [in court, reading]: "He wants me put away now.  My only hope is to change his mind."

Det. Kevin Leonpacher [to Moriarty]: I think that what the evidence has shown, what the text messages have shown, is that she made a decision -- when she called Will Carter that night to kill him.

But the texts are not the only surprise Detective Leonpacher finds inside Victoria's phone.

Det. Kevin Leonpacher: I was dumbfounded.

Det. Summer Benton: I was like, "Wow." …she will go to any lengths to prove her story.

SELF-DEFENSE OR PREMEDITATED MURDER?

Britni Morgan [emotional]: She's just the best person I really know, the best friend I've ever had and it's hard to … to see her go through this.

Britni Morgan has always believed Victoria Rickman's claim of self-defense.  As her closest friend, she had seen the bruises and hoped to be in court every day to support Rickman.

video

Britni Morgan: I need her to be able to know that … I'm there for her.

But Morgan, Victoria's father Paul Rickman, and Victoria's life-long friend, Andrew Scarr, are barred from sitting in at her trial until after they testify.

Paul Rickman: it's a sad situation … There's no way you can put it in words.

Andrew Scarr: It's devastating. Devastating. …she's not a cold-blooded killer.

Before court begins, Rickman's attorney wants to ensure Victoria puts her best face forward in every possible way.

Amanda Clark Palmer | Defense attorney: She doesn't deserve to be in jail.

Back on the stand, Detective Leonpacher details his forensic analysis of Rickman's cellphone. Remember that photo of bruises to Victoria's right arm the morning of the shooting? It turns out Leonpacher found selfies of her bruises in her phone.

Det. Kevin Leonpacher: I looked at the metadata on the photos to see when were these photos taken, and that's when I found they were 24 hours before the murder ever occurred. …This is her whole defense. This is her whole assertion of self-defense, of justification for shooting and killing Will. And those bruises existed before he ever showed up at her house that night.

Erin Moriarty [to Palmer]: There was some evidence to indicate that maybe the injuries she had she actually had 24 hours before. Isn't that really damaging for your case?

Amanda Clark Palmer: Not at all, not really damaging. …she had other bruises that were notated on her body in the medical records.

The Cobb County deputy sheriff who gave Rickman the gun she used to kill Will Carter Jr. is now an instructor at Dobbins Air Force Base.  He testifies he met Rickman at the courthouse where he worked four months before the shooting.

Rick Price: She told me that her ex had beaten her -- and she needed a protective order. …I could see the bruises on her arms … I could also see that she had the outline of black eyes.

Prosecutor Sheila Ross suggests Price had romantic feelings for Victoria.

Rick Price: I was interested in Victoria -- but we never developed past just good friends.

Prosecutor Sheila Ross: Did you ever have sexual relations with her?

Rick Price: No.

Prosecutor Sheila Ross: Did you ever tell anyone that you did?

Rick Price [laughs]: I've told people all sorts of things that have nothing to do with reality.

Price was fired five days after the shooting for not cooperating with the investigation. 

Halfway through the second week of trial, the defense begins its case. Rickman's lawyer calls to the stand Will Carter Jr.'s psychiatrist, Dr. John Lochridge, who makes a startling revelation. 

Will Carter Jr.

Will Carter Jr.

Carter family

He says that on Sept. 10, 2013, just three days before Will's death, Will reported having delusions.

Dr. John Lochridge: He said he thought he was famous.  He was on TV.  He was talking to and through the TV. 

Lochridge testifies that Will had been taking an anti-psychotic drug to help him sleep better. But because Detective Benton never ordered a toxicology report, no one will ever know what drugs Will had in his system when he was shot. Rickman claims that Will had stopped taking his prescribed medications and had gone back to illegal drugs.

Victoria Rickman [to Moriarty]:  …it's the reason why he went crazy and raped me, like, forced his way in there and was gonna murder me.

Also testifying for the defense is a former chief medical examiner for the State of Georgia. Dr. Kris Lee Sperry bolsters the defense theory that Rickman fired the first shots into Will's chest -- not his back -- as the prosecution contends.

Dr. Kris Lee Sperry [in court]: He is turned somewhat towards -- the lady with the gun – the person with the weapon.

Amanda Clark Palmer [to Moriarty]: He could be twisted towards her, you know, leaned over. …So he gets the two shots to his chest.

And now it's time for Victoria's friends, who have been waiting to tell the jury what they saw in the year and the months before the shooting:

Britni Morgan: The bruising was, it was kind of it looked like fingerprints on the side.

Steven Sadler: I've seen bruises on her arm. I've seen a black eye. I have seen a mark above her eye. Right about here [points to top of his right eye].

Amanda Clark Palmer: And where did she have the bruises on her body?

Jeremy Fordham: On her wrists and her arms and a second occasion on her throat.

Cobb County Police Lieutenant Robby Ray says he too saw bruises on Rickman a year earlier.

Lt. Robby Ray: She had some bruising on her left upper forearm and left bicep … She said that her ribs were sore.

Victoria Rickman decides not to take the stand. But in her closing argument, Clark Palmer makes sure jurors hear what Rickman's voice sounded like the day of the shooting:

VICTORIA RICKMAN TO 911: I shot him.

VICTORIA RICKMAN TO 911 [crying]: I don't know how to help him.

Amanda Clark Palmer: This is not the voice of a killer. Imagine how powerless she felt when William Carter who was taller than her, heavier than her and stronger than her, was raping her.

A JURY DECIDES

After two weeks of testimony, Prosecutor Sheila Ross is ready for closing arguments and she holds nothing back.

Prosecutor Sheila Ross: She finished him off with a shot to the head. That is cold-blooded murder. 

Prosecutor Sheila Ross: And if he in fact was raping her and she shot him, good riddance. The world could use one less rapist. But that's not what happened.

Amanda Clark Palmer | Defense attorney: Victoria Rickman is not guilty.

Defense attorney Amanda Clark Palmer argues there is no way Rickman could have planned to kill Will because she had no idea he was coming over that night.

Amanda Clark Palmer: There is zero proof that Victoria Rickman invited Will Carter to her house.

And, once more, Clark Palmer slams the behavior of Det. Summer Benton.

Amanda Clark Palmer: She wanted to know what's the capacity of the gun and she got it wrong.

She says Benton's investigative work was shoddy and biased from the start against Rickman.

Amanda Clark Palmer: She was tryin' to make good TV. And she didn't want to do anything or take any steps in her investigation that would contradict her theory that Victoria Rickman was guilty.

Closing arguments end late on the Friday before Labor Day weekend, but Judge J.P. Boulee orders jurors to begin deliberating.

Caro Carter | Will Carter Jr's. mother: Everybody was sort of standing around thinking we would be here for hours and they said "We have a verdict."

Det. Summer Benton: We were shocked. We went, "What?"

The jury returns with a verdict in less than an hour.  Judge Boulee has the lawyers look at the jury form to make sure it's proper and the lawyers clearly see the verdict. 

Amanda Clark Palmer: It's a very simple verdict form. It just has the four counts. It said she was guilty on each and every count.

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Defense attorney Amanda Clark Palmer whispers "I'm sorry" to Victoria Rickman in court

CBS News

Erin Moriarty: We saw you whisper something to Victoria.

Amanda Clark Palmer: No, I just said to her, "I'm sorry." Yeah.

Erin Moriarty: Was that hard?

Amanda Clark Palmer: It was extremely hard.

The next moments make it official:

Jury foreman: Count one, malice murder, we the jury find Victoria Rickman guilty…

Prosecutor Sheila Ross: I think the verdict and the swiftness with which they rendered their verdict speaks for itself.

Caro Carter: When the verdict was read there was a huge rainbow that came over Atlanta … to me, that was Will. He was finally at peace.

For Detective Benton, the verdict is gratifying.

FROM "INSIDE HOMICIDE"

Det Benton:" The gun doesn't hold 13. For some reason, this girl -- she did a tactical reload.

All along she has stuck to her conviction that Rickman reloaded the gun, but after speaking to her superiors, she's reconsidered.

Det. Summer Benton: I probably wouldn't have made that grand of a statement … But, you know, it doesn't matter. This case is not about me … This case is about William Carter Jr., and the fact that what happened in that bedroom.

Five weeks later, everyone is back in court for sentencing. There's no doubt Victoria Rickman will get life in prison. The most she can hope for is the possibility of parole.

And then Victoria Rickman, who did not testify on her own behalf, addresses the court.

Victoria Rickman: Your honor, thank you for the time to speak and clarify the facts of this case.

Victoria Rickman [cries]: I am a mother who has been stolen from her son's life. I am a battered woman…. I am a victim who continues to suffer the nightmares and symptoms of PTSD caused from being forced to defend myself in years of abuse … So I ask you, your honor, to … return me to my son and life and give me back my voice and my dignity.

Rickman offers no apology, and the judge offers no mercy.

Judge J.P. Boulee: This court sentences you to life without the possibility of parole.

Two days after the sentencing hearing, Will Carter Jr. would have turned 35 years old. Will's mother says her son's death is a loss for everyone, but especially for his young daughter.

Caro Carter: She's a good student. She's got a beautiful heart … never see her graduate and never be at her wedding, but his memory is what's important. And that's what I want to be able to carry on, and be grateful that I had this young man in my life.

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A painting of Will Carter painted by his friend, Mary Manring, and given to his parents. Hear Manring's memories of her best friend.

CBS News

And the memories of Will are everywhere.

William Carter Sr.: Loki is a connection with Will in a way. Will loved this dog. He's almost 13, way beyond his normal lifespan.

Caro Carter: Loki gives me a lot of comfort because I know how close Will was to Loki and we still have that connection with our son of something here on earth. We're going to be OK, we're going to make it through this.

Will Carter Jr.'s daughter is being raised by the child's mother.

Victoria Rickman's son is being raised by her ex-husband.

Rickman's lawyer has filed a motion for a new trial.

  • Erin Moriarty

    Correspondent, "48 Hours"