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Who Was Debra Carter’s Real Killer? Not Ron Williamson, But The Man Who Testified Against Him

The real murderer was the last person to be seen alive with Debra Sue Carter, but it took police over three years to collect DNA samples from him.

By Gina Tron

A small town in Oklahoma was rocked by a gruesome event in the 1980s, the murder of a popular young cocktail waitress named Debra Sue Carter. Police were determined to discover who raped and strangled the 21-year-old, but when they finally made arrests, they got the wrong men.

John Grisham’s first non-fiction book “The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town,” published in 2006, and the new Netflix docu-series "The Innocent Man" focus heavily on Ron Williamson, one of the two men wrongly convicted of killing Carter in 1982.

[Warning: Spoilers for "The Innocent Man" ahead]

Ron Williamson and Dennis Fritz were convicted in 1988 for Carter’s brutal 1982 rape and murder. Both men were subsequently released once DNA proved their innocence. Grisham’s book mostly followed the intense circumstances surrounding Williamson, a former minor league baseball player who served 11 years on death row before the Innocence Project helped him get released in 1999. He was cleared just five days before he was scheduled to be executed.

Meanwhile, the real killer wasn’t convicted until 2003. Testimony he gave in the ‘80s actually helped put the wrongfully convicted men away.

Glen Gore was the murderer all along. So who was he?

He went to school with Carter.

Gore and Carter were high school classmates, Grisham wrote in his novel.

The night before Carter was found dead, he stopped by one of Carter's part-time jobs. There, at The Coachlight, where she worked as a cocktail waitress, he asked her to dance.

“She did, but halfway through the song she suddenly stopped and angrily walked away from Gore. Later, in the ladies’ restroom, she said she would feel safer if one of her girlfriends would spend the night at her place, but she did not say what worried her.”

He was the last person seen with Carter.

He was seen talking with Carter in the parking lot of the club, and she was pushing him away. She expressed more fear to girlfriends about her well-being that night, but she didn’t explain why.

Carter was scared of him.

Just one month earlier, she told a friend she “was afraid of Gore because of his temper,” Grisham wrote. She, at one point, suspected him of stealing windshield wipers from her car. Meanwhile, Gore didn’t own a car.

“It had become a running dispute,” Grisham wrote. She confronted him about the wipers a week before the murder at his home. She then went to the police station where she talked to an officer about the wipers, but she didn’t make a formal complaint.

He was a disc jockey.

Like Carter, Gore spent a lot of time out at nightclubs in the small Oklahoma town. He sometimes worked as a bartender and disc jockey at a club called Harold’s.

He was interviewed after the murder.

Gore “hustled over to the [police] station” after the murder, according to Grisham, and a 10-sentence police report was written up about his whereabouts the night of the murder. It ended with the sentence, “Glen has never been to Debbie’s apt.”

He tried to frame the other men.

The messages scrawled throughout Carter's apartment were written in an attempt to frame other people and keep the attention off him. It worked, at least for over a decade.  

He fell through the cracks.

“Gore fell through the cracks,” Grisham wrote. “He either slipped away, or was conveniently ignored, or was simply neglected. Whatever the reason, he was not fingerprinted, nor did he give saliva and hair samples.”

It took police three and a half years, in fact, to take samples from Gore.

After he was finally arrested, he escaped prison.

In 1999, he was officially named a suspect in Carter’s murder. He ran off while on a prison work crew, but later turned himself into prison officials, NewsOk, the website for the Oklahoman, reports.

He will spend the rest of his life behind bars.

Gore was sentenced to life without parole in 2006, according to NewsOK.

[Photo: Associated Press]