MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- A former auto parts store manager was charged with 'two or more murders' Tuesday as police investigated the slayings of the man's wife and three children in what could be the city's worst mass murder.
Montgomery Jail records showed that Lee Artis Carter, 36, of Montgomery, was charged with 'murder of two or more persons' Tuesday.
Police said only that 'multiple murders' occurred in a residence in a southeast Montgomery neighborhood and that 'a possible suspect' was in custody. Neighbors said Carter, his wife, Nell Davis Carter, 35, and their two daughters and son lived in the attractive ranch-style house on a quiet cul-de-sac where the bodies were found.
Firemedic Chief T.L. Bryant said his department was called to the city jail later Tuesday to treat a suspect with razor-blade cuts to both wrists. A spokeswoman at Jackson Hospital, Vicky Jones, confirmed that Carter was treated at the hospital Tuesday and returned to police custody.
'At the time he was in stable condition,' she said. 'He was released into the custody of police.'
The three children -- Natasha Carter, 8, Lee Artis Carter Jr., 7, and Shameka Davis, 13 -- attended St. Jude Elementary School. School secretary Sabrina McShan told the Alabama Journal newspaper that she called the Carter home all day Monday because the three children did not show up for school.
'I called and I called,' she said. 'I noticed it was strange for all three of them to be out.'
The wife's mother arrived at the crime scene at about 11 a.m. Tuesday and wailed, 'They killed all my children, Lordy,' before being led back to the family car.
Neighbor Mark Carter, who is not related, said about four police units went to the house early Tuesday. Mark Carter said the woman's brother, Bubba Davis, told police he had been trying to reach his sister since Saturday night.
Mark Carter said police knocked on the door of the house and were met by Lee Artis Carter, who refused to allow them entry because they didn't have a search warrant. Police returned around 3:30 a.m. and discovered the bodies.
Randall Thornton of Auto Parts Supermarket in Montgomery said Lee Artis Carter had managed one of two Montgomery stores for about four of five months in 1988 and quit in a dispute with the owner. He also worked at a pizza restaurant and an Air Force base in Montgomery.
'He was the calmest one of us all in there,' said Eric Plott, a manager of the pizza shop.
An Air Force spokesman said Lee Artis Carter had been working as a bagger at the Gunter Air Force Base commissary for about two years. Alabama Department of Corrections spokesman John Hale said Mrs. Carter was a prison system employee, but had not been to work in two days.
Hale said Mrs. Carter has worked for the department since 1977 at Holman Prison in Atmore in south Alabama. He said she transferred to Montgomery in 1979 and went to work for the prison system's 'Free by Choice' drug program in 1986.
If all four victims were murdered by the same person, it would be the worst such mass murder in the city's history. In 1986, Quang Ngoc Bui of Montgomery was convicted of the knife slayings of his three children.