Authorities Announce Indictment Of Alleged Gunman In 2003 Murders - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Authorities Announce Indictment Of Alleged Gunman In 2003 Gang Murders

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A gang member pleaded not guilty today to murder and other counts stemming from a 2003 New Year's Day shooting that killed two women and injured a young boy caught in the crossfire in southeast San Diego.

James Lionel Carter, 35, is charged in a newly unsealed indictment with two counts of murder, four counts of attempted murder and one count of conspiracy to commit a crime.

Carter -- who was already in custody on an unrelated robbery case -- also faces two special circumstance allegations -- multiple murders and that the murder was committed for the benefit of a street gang -- which could lead to the death penalty.

A decision on which punishment Carter might face if convicted of the shooting at Dr. J's liquor store on Logan Avenue in Lincoln Park will be made by District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis at a later date.

"These innocent victims were caught in a gang revenge shooting that shook the community and left law enforcement with very few leads," Dumanis said. "Over the years, investigators pursued this case with great determination. The shooter who fired the fatal shots will now be held accountable for his crimes."

Over the past 10 months, people in the community began coming forward and talking with authorities about what they knew about the murders of Carol Waites, 45, and Sharen Burton, 32, according to Deputy District Attorney Robert Hickey.

The killings "so grotesquely crossed the line" that, as time passed, people were willing to come forward and tell what they knew, Hickey said.

Playing cards with the faces of the victims and information about their killings that were posted in prisons might have also led people to talk to police, the prosecutor said.

A $50,000 reward was offered for information leading to arrests in the case, but no one has put themselves in line to claim that money and the investigation into the murders is continuing, Hickey said.

Carter pleaded not guilty to the charges this afternoon and was ordered held without bail. Judge Robert Trentacosta scheduled a status conference for July 15.

The victims were caught in gang warfare crossfire about 1 a.m. on Jan. 1, 2003, when they stopped by Dr. J's liquor to buy a fire log after attending midnight church services.

Waites' 7-year-old nephew was shot six times as he shielded her 2-year-old granddaughter in the back seat. The toddler was not injured.

The victims were just "in the wrong place at the wrong time," Hickey said.

The prosecutor said four shooters fired four separate firearms during the killing spree and that the gang shooting was in retaliation for a murder 24 hours earlier in Skyline.

San Diego police Chief William Lansdowne said officers -- including Detective Tony Johnson who retired this week -- worked tirelessly to solve the case.

Lansdowne said the Waites-Burton murder case is the one he hears most about from the public.

"We never put a case to rest in the San Diego Police Department," Lansdowne said. "This is a great ending to a very tragic homicide. Gang violence is a cancer to the city of San Diego. Gang violence is a cancer to our nation."

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