Real Estate

Fatal Realtor kidnapping pushes real estate industry to change

Suspect lured agent to remote property showing one year ago

A year ago next week, the search for Beverly Carter, the Arkansas Realtor who had been missing since Sep. 25, 2014, ended tragically when her body was found in a shallow grave about 25 miles north of Little Rock. 

Now, Beverly's son reveals how the industry is changing in an exclusive interview with HousingWire.

Carter was kidnapped while showing a home sometime in the early evening hours of Sep. 25, a Thursday. Her husband told police that he became concerned when by 9 p.m. his wife had not called. He drove to the site and found her brown Cadillac sport utility vehicle parked in the driveway with her purse inside it.

An intensive search followed, and on Sep. 29, police arrested a suspect.

Carter’s body was found in a shallow grave about 25 miles north of Little Rock the next day, on Sep. 30, 2014.

Arron Lewis, of Jacksonville, was arrested and stands charged with Carter's murder. He faces the death penalty. His girlfriend at the time, Crystal Hope Lowery, was also charged with capital murder for her role.

Lowery has since pled guilty and received a 30-year reduced sentence, contingent on her agreement to testify against Lewis. Lewis is scheduled for his capital murder trial on Jan. 12.

The one–year anniversary of this tragedy has Realtors considering again the safety measures they take.

“On the one-year anniversary of the tragic death of Beverly Carter, we must recommit ourselves as an industry to the need for safety awareness and practices among real estate agents, colleagues and clients,” says National Association of Realtors 2015 President Chris Polychron. “Unfortunately, like many other jobs that require interacting with the public, selling real estate involves some risk, but we must do everything possible to ensure that future tragedies are prevented.

“One of the most important things Realtors can do to protect themselves is to always meet new clients in their office and introduce them to a co-worker,” Polychron says. “Realtors should keep their phone charged and with them, make sure someone always knows their location, be careful with sharing personal information and always trust their instincts.” 

Carter’s son, Carl Carter, Jr., is now studying to become a Realtor, and has become a champion of Realtor and agent safety. He spoke to HousingWire Monday from Little Rock.

“On a positive note we’ve seen a lot of changes in the real estate industry,” Carl says. “There have been changes in the industry locally and nationally. In Arkansas, even the way people sell autos has changed."

“People are doing more to verify that people are who they say they are and doing more to keep people safe,” Carl says. “There have been massive changes in real estate industry in similar processes, in identification, in requiring meetings that are face-to-face be in an office.

The Arkansas Realtors Association has taken it one step further with their Realtor Safe Harbor program. Through the program, Realtors can find public, safe locations near listings, including offices of other Realtor companies. For instance, a Century 21 agent can meet a client at a Crye Leike office if it’s in the program and closer to a home they want to show.

Carl is currently doing his pre-licensing work while working his day job at Arkansas Blue Cross Blue Shield.

Becoming a voice for Realtor safety has been a challenge, but it is a way Carl finds closure, and a way to preserve his mother’s legacy.

“It’s a tough thing because it’s like being as it was my mom it’s hard, so it’s double edged,” he says. “I want to keep my moms’ name out there and keep her legacy alive and I really want to help keep people safe. I’ve been an educator at Blue Cross, and I know the best way to educate is through a good story, and unfortunately, it’s a good story.

“It’s exhausting and it’s a cause worth it,” Carl says.

Carl and the Carter family are working on creating the Beverly Carter foundation, which will focus on providing assistance and support for women in a variety of areas.

“The goal of that will be to empower women from providing support for victims of abuse, whether domestic or violent crime, and to support for single mothers and education for women,” he says. “My mom only had a GED. She overcame a lot and we want to help other women do that in her name”

Carl says the family expects to have the foundation established by Nov. 1.

A year later, and Carl thinks while there have been advances, there is still much work to do on Realtor safety.

“I think that the industry is making good steps so far but I do think there are other steps that need to be taken to drive it further,” he says.

Things like panic button apps for smart phones aren’t really useful, and the buddy system proposed in the wake of his mother’s death isn’t feasible.

But, he thinks, the industry could seriously look at the issue of open houses — which aren’t very effective as sales tools, he says, but which invite all sorts potentially dangerous people with no identity verification process.

“All Realtors have a story about the odd or frightening things that happened at an open house,” he says. “There are just weird people out there and you never know what people will do. The industry needs to take a hard look at the true benefit of open houses.”

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