Gwinnett wraps up serial killer case

Photo by Kristen Ralph

Photo by Kristen Ralph

LAWRENCEVILLE -- Gwinnett prosecutors recently closed the book on a local chef turned serial killer who once reported to work at a Norcross restaurant doused in blood.

Charles Lendelle Carter, 42, pleaded guilty in Gwinnett Superior Court last month to strangling Angela Thayer, 36, a Norcross mother of six, three days after Christmas 2005.

His admission earned Carter a third life sentence, to be served concurrent with two life-without-parole sentences he was dealt for fatally stabbing two women in Fulton County. The killings spanned from October 2004 to January 2006. Investigators who helped bring Carter to justice aren't convinced his list of victims is complete yet.

"From an investigative and psychoanalytical perspective, he's a fascinating case study into a very disturbed mind," said Brian Ray, a criminal investigator with Gwinnett District Attorney's Office who worked the case. "But I feel for the families ... (Carter) has spread a huge amount of grief and pain."

Authorities believe Carter, an imposing figure at 6 feet, 2 inches and 240 pounds, used a similar, stealthy modus operandi with all three victims -- earning their trust and coming invited into their homes. He was arrested a month after Thayer's killing when police tracked him to an Extended Stay Hotel in Norcross, where he'd been living with his mother.

Carter had earlier pleaded guilty in the stabbing deaths of two Fulton County women -- Apriel Allen in October 2004 and Lisa Rosenthal in January 2006. Both were found by their children.

Fulton County Deputy District Attorney Sheila Ross, lead prosecutor in the Fulton murders, said Carter avoided the death penalty by admitting in court to killing the women.

All three women either knew or had brief relationships with Carter before he killed them.

"It's not a stranger-on-stranger crime," Gwinnett District Attorney Stephen Fern told a judge in 2009. The judge granted Gwinnett prosecutors permission to use evidence about the Fulton County murders, should Carter's case have gone to trial, which Fern said was a first in his experience.

An indecisive Lothario, Carter also had a series of on-off relationships with friends of the victims, including a friend and roommate of Thayer's.

Evidence showed that Thayer put up a fight. Human tissue found under her fingernails matched Carter's DNA, court records show. Based on those findings, he was indicted in Gwinnett on murder charges in 2008.

But that wasn't the only time Carter got sloppy.

Fern said Carter worked as a chef at a defunct Norcross restaurant called Asiago. On the day of Allen's murder, Carter reported to work there and was told to go home "because he had blood all over his clothing" and was later fired, Fern said in court transcripts.

A call was placed from Rosenthal's home on the day she was killed to a courier service called Quicksilver, where Carter was employed as an independent contractor, Fern told the Post. Documents with the Quicksilver business name were recovered in Thayer's residence, records show.

As with the Norcross restaurant, Carter had attendance problems with Quicksilver that prosecutors said were brought about by the slayings. He used Rosenthal's phone to inform his employer he was running late.

"He lost his job because he was out killing folks rather than actually showing up for work and performing his duties," Fern said in 2009.

A video game system and DVDs were stolen from Rosenthal's home, and records at pawn shops showed that Carter listed himself as the owner of that property. One DVD copy of "Ace Ventura: Pet Detective" carried a fingerprint of Rosenthal's son, linking Carter to the scene.

Carter followed the Fulton County victims, cased their homes, and waited until they were home alone, Fern told the judge.

"He knows these subjects, so if he's seen outside, it's something that they don't think that much about," Fern said. "He waits for that opportunity. He selects it, he anticipates it and he makes it."

Carter fits the FBI's definition of a serial killer, in that he murdered two or more victims in separate events.

Following Carter's 2006 arrest, authorities said he admitted to killing a man in 1992 after robbing a DeKalb County gas station, dumping the bullet-ridden body behind a school. Police in Henry County called Carter a person of interest in the 2003 slaying of 16-year-old girl whose body was found in an abandoned house after she'd left home, headed to the movies.

Georgia Department of Corrections records show Carter has not been convicted in either of those slayings.

Prosecutors in Fulton and Gwinnett counties said Carter is not suspected in any other killings in their respective jurisdictions.

Like Ray, Sandy Springs police Sgt. Glenn Kalish, a former Fulton County homicide detective, described Carter as deeply disturbed.

"He had some unusual habits and longtime family issues," Kalish said. "I know he's damaged a lot of families with his rage and destruction."

Added Ray: "I hope one day we'll learn about all of (Carter's) crimes because the other detectives and I that worked on these cases believe there are more victims."