Arkansas realtor Beverly Carter began her day on September 25, 2014 with a bit of good luck — but what she didn’t know then was that her day would end in unspeakable tragedy.
Beverly had won $50 in a competition at Crye-Leike Real Estate, where she worked as a successful agent, and planned to finish the beautiful fall day having dinner with her husband of almost 35 years at their home, according to the Beverly Carter Foundation website.
But before Beverly 50, could relax and put her busy work day behind her, she needed to show one last rural property at 6 p.m. to a married couple who had told her they were planning to relocate to the area. Beverly went to the home at 14202 Old River Drive in Scott alone and parked her brown Cadillac sport utility vehicle in the driveway of the property, according to Arkansas-Democrat Gazette archives.
She’d never be seen alive by her loved ones again.
Beverly’s body was located days later behind a concrete plant in Cabot. Her murder would prompt two arrests and raise new concerns about realtor safety.
Years later, the case remains one of “Dateline” correspondent Andrea Canning’s most memorable crimes — in part because of the number of twists and turns the story continued to take as the investigation unfolded.
Canning will provide an inside look at why the case has continued to stick with her as part of Oxygen’s three-day event “Dateline: Unforgettable,” airing March 8-10, with Beverly’s story taking center stage on Wednesday, March 10 at 8/7c.
Before the episode airs, here’s what to know about the disturbing case that was motivated by greed and opportunity:
Targeting ‘A Woman Who Worked Alone’
Just hours after Beverly had been slated to meet the married couple at the isolated property, her husband, Carl Carter Sr., went to the location around 9 p.m. when he hadn’t heard from her, according to a police report obtained by the Arkansas-Democrat Gazette.
Carl Sr. found her vehicle parked in the driveway with her purse inside. The door to the property was standing open, but there was no sign of the missing realtor.
Her disappearance sparked a massive search effort, as fellow realtors scoured the area handing out fliers and joining the search parties.
The Pulaski County sheriff’s office quickly honed in on 33-year-old Arron M. Lewis as a possible suspect in the disappearance, announcing a warrant for his arrest in the case just days later on Sept. 28, 2014.
He was taken into custody a short time after and charged with capital murder, robbery, and kidnapping, according to a 2014 ABC News report.
The Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office also announced Beverly’s body had been found with the help of cell phone data that pointed them in the direction of the concrete plant, where Lewis once worked.
Capt. Simon Haynes said at the time that Beverly had been “a target of opportunity” who Lewis had arranged to meet at the empty home.
Lewis himself told reporters not long after his arrest that he had targeted her “because she was just a woman that worked alone—a rich broker,” The Associated Press reported in 2016.
Authorities initially believed that Lewis had operated solo — but arrested his wife, Crystal Lowery, for capital murder and kidnapping charges in the case the next month.
Kidnapping Plot Gone Awry
For months the details remained closely guarded after a judge in the case sealed the court documents, but Lowery would bring new insight into the case after agreeing to plead guilty to reduced charges of first-degree murder and kidnapping in exchange for her testimony against Lewis, The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.
She testified in court in 2016 that the plan had been for Lewis to kidnap Beverly and keep her in an abandoned office building at the concrete plant while they made ransom demands, but the couple was unaware of changes at the plant that would make that plan impossible, according to the AP.
With Carter tied up in the trunk of his car — and nowhere to go — Lewis was forced to improvise.
“Where are you going to take her because I don’t want her at the house?” Lowery testified that she had asked him at the time. “He didn’t have anywhere to take her, and he was driving around and he said he could get pulled over at any moment and he needed to get off the road.”
Prosecutors said Lewis eventually brought Beverly to his Jacksonville home, where the couple kept her bound with duct tape in the bathroom.
Lowery was left to guard her with a stun gun, while Lewis went back to the abduction site to retrieve her purse and bank card, Arkansas News reported in 2016. But by the time Lewis got to the property, law enforcement authorities were already swarming the area and he had to leave empty-handed.
Prosecutors said the couple forced Beverly to record a 12-second ransom message begging her husband to cooperate or “it could be bad," but Carl wouldn't hear the message until after she was found dead.
The couple decided to abandon the ransom plan and get rid of Beverly instead, fearing that she had already seen Lewis’ face and also may have seen Lowery’s name on prescription bottles in the bathroom, Lowery testified, according to the news outlet.
They wrapped her head in duct tape and let her suffocate to death while her hands were tied behind her back.
"She died a horrible, terrifying death that no one deserves," deputy prosecutor Barbara Mariani said in her opening statements, according to The Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette. "Beverly loved her life. The last thing Beverly experienced was unspeakable terror at that man's hands."
Was There A Secret Life?
Defense attorney Bill James argued in trial that Beverly was never abducted at all and had willingly gone with the couple as part of sexual “hook up.”
He claimed his client hadn’t even been home at the time Beverly died and suggested Beverly may have died during a consensual sex act with Lowery, painting her in his opening statements as a woman who was going through a mid-life crisis and was living “secret lives” others knew nothing about, the newspaper reports.
James argued that Beverly had been suffering from financial and marital problems at the time and described her real estate sales for the year as “in the toilet” compared to previous years.
“We’ve got to look at this truthfully, not from a fantasy,” he said. “Beverly was making bad decisions at this point in her life.”
Carl himself acknowledged that there had been problems in the marriage, admitting on the stand to an affair early on in the couple’s marriage and punching his wife once during a drunken altercation. However, he said the couple were on “very good” terms when she died, according to The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette archives.
Jurors wouldn’t believe the defense team’s story about Beverly’s death, however, and returned an unanimous guilty verdict after less than an hour of deliberations. He was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.
Changes To The Real Estate Industry
The aftermath of Beverly’s death has brought new attention to realtor safety. Beverly’s son Carl Carter Jr. partnered with the Arkansas Realtors Association to train agents on life-saving safety practices.
"It's very important that realtors understand how at-risk we are. We meet strangers every day to show houses," Amy Eden, of the Arkansas Realtors Association Safety Committee, told local station KATV in 2019 of the group’s work.
The committee recommends using the buddy system, meeting with clients at an initial meeting at the office, or making a copy of a potential client’s driver license to increase safety in the field.
Carl Jr. also founded the Beverly Carter Foundation to honor his mother and continue to create awareness about the dangers of a profession often done alone. The work has given him a new passion to help others.
“That really pushes me forward because when people confide in you the ways they’ve been victimized, harassed, stolen from, you really want to get to work and help them,” he told the news station in 2019.
To continue his mom’s legacy, he also became a real estate agent himself.
Plea For Clemency
Lowery hoped to shorten her time behind bars in 2020, asking the Arkansas Parole Board to cut her 30-year sentence in half as part of a plea for clemency.
Lowery wrote a letter to Governor Asa Hutchinson, which was obtained by local station KATV, saying that she had found God and had achieved “exemplary institutional adjustment.” She asked to continue repaying her debt to society outside of the prison walls.
“I know I can never say or do enough to change what I did,” she wrote.
Lowery also argued that she was no longer a danger to society and said she would not have been in the position she is without Lewis.
"I have a debt to pay to society and it would be more productive to pay this debt volunteering and monitoring on the outside than staring at four walls on the inside eating up taxpayer dollars," she wrote. "I am asking you for a second chance to prove myself redeemable to society.”
Her clemency petition was denied by the parole board in July, KARK reported at the time.
For more on this case and others like it, watch Dateline: Unforgettable, airing March 8-10 on 8/7c ahead of the Season 10 premiere of "Dateline: Secrets Uncovered" on Thursday, March 11 at 8/7c. Stream episodes from past seasons here.
Crime Time is your destination for true crime stories from around the world, breaking crime news, and information about Oxygen's original true crime shows and documentaries. Sign up for Oxygen Insider for all the best true crime content.