Carter pleads guilty in arson, attempted murder

Carter pleads guilty in arson, attempted murder

By Heather Michon

A Mechanicsville man charged with multiple counts of arson and attempted murder pleaded guilty Friday (Jan. 25) to 10 of 11 charges against him in Fluvanna County Circuit Court. 

 Cole Spencer Augustus Carter, 27, paused for some time before quietly answering “guilty” to a count of arson and three counts of attempted murder. He also entered guilty pleas on five charges of violating protective orders and use of a false ID. 

 He pleaded not guilty to one count of breaking and entering. 

 In his summary of the Commonwealth’s case, Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Todd Shockley told Judge Richard E. Moore that the fire was the end result of a breakup between Carter and his girlfriend. 

 “He did not handle the end of the relationship very well,” said Shockley. 

 The girlfriend, who lived with her family on Miles Jackson Road in Palmyra, took out a protective order in April 2018, which Carter violated on at least two occasions, according to Shockley’s summary of the evidence. As a result, he was ordered to wear a GPS tracking device. 

 At around 3:45 a.m. on June 3, 2018, the girlfriend’s father heard “popping sounds” coming from the rear of the house. When he looked outside, the back of the house was in flames. 

 The homeowner got his wife and son safely out of the house before it was fully engulfed. The girlfriend was staying elsewhere that night. 

 Law enforcement officers soon found that Carter had cut off his GPS tracker. Due to a technical glitch, the monitoring agency did not realize the device had been removed. 

 Carter’s mother’s car was found near the scene, along with Carter’s iPhone and the cap from a gas can. An empty gas container was found in the woods near the home.  

 Carter himself was found when he flagged down a car belonging to Sgt. Curtis Brandon of the Fluvanna County Sheriff’s Office and asked for a ride. Carter, who was covered with ticks and smelled of gasoline, gave a false name and story but was quickly identified and taken into custody.  

 Carter’s attorney, Graven W. Craig, told the judge that Carter’s family had “urged him to plead guilty to these charges.”  

 Because a guilty plea must be voluntary and uncoerced, Moore questioned Carter at length to make sure he was entering his plea by choice. 

 Carter confirmed his family had encouraged his plea, but added: “I see their point of view. I agree.”   

 With his guilty pleas, he now faces a maximum sentence of life plus 66 years or more. 

 A trial date was set for March 7 on the one count of breaking and entering for which he pleaded not guilty. 

 Craig asked the judge to order a psychological evaluation ahead of sentencing on the 10 guilty counts, saying he “suffers some level of sexual dysfunction,” and that an evaluation was necessary for both treatment and possible mitigation in sentencing. Moore agreed to the request. 

 Sentencing was set for April 12. 


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