"She died a horrible, terrifying death that no one deserves. Beverly loved her life. The last thing Beverly experienced was unspeakable terror at that man's hands."
-Deputy Prosecutor Barbara Mariani
It was the 25th of September 2014. A Thursday. Fifty year old Beverly Carter was at work that day. It was a busy day but by 5.30pm that afternoon, she was all set to leave the office. Beverly was a real estate agent for Crye Leike Realtors in Arkansas, United States and she had just one house left to show that day at 6pm and she planned to do it on her way home from work.
Just before 5.30pm, before Beverly left the office, she called her husband Carl. She told him about her appointment and said that she would be home after showing that property. She told him which house it was, 14202 Old River Drive in Scott, and told him that she would pick up dinner for the two of them on her way home.
Carl started to get worried when Beverly was not home by 9pm and he hadn't heard anything from her. He went to the house that she was due to show at 6pm and her car, a brown Cadillac sport utility vehicle, was parked outside. Carl looked inside the car and saw her purse was still inside. When he walked up to the front door of the house, he discovered it was unlocked so he went inside. But Beverly wasn't there. Carl called the police and reported her missing.
Police began looking for Beverly and tried to track down the couple she was due to meet at the house that night. All they initially knew was that she was due to meet a married couple who were looking to relocate.
On the Friday and the Saturday, police along with Beverly's friends, family and a large number of volunteers searched for her but nothing was found that was connected to Beverly's disappearance.A break came in the case on the Sunday, the 28th of September, when police revealed they were looking for a man they believed was involved in Beverly's disappearance.
An arrest warrant was issued for thirty three year old Aaron Lewis of Jacksonville. Police released an image of him and said that he had facial injuries in the image and they were the result of a car accident he was in that very same day. Police had used cell phone data to trace who Beverly had arranged to meet and Aaron was in possession of the phone. Beverly's phone records indicated that she had placed a call to an unidentified cell phone number that was returned to TextMe, Inc., a company that assigns phone numbers and provides smartphone users with free text and voice messaging. Police obtained records and traced the data to a Jacksonville address.
Police went to the house and saw a man, who they identified as Aaron Lewis, getting into a black Ford Fusion. The man and the vehicle matched a description of a person and a car seen at the Scott residence when Beverly was there. Police followed him when he drove away and as he drove around a curve, he lost control of the vehicle and crashed into a ditch. He was cited for careless driving and failure to wear a seat belt.
After he was involved in a car accident in Pulaski County, he went to Baptist Health Medical Center in Little Rock for treatment and discharged himself before he could be arrested on a charge of kidnapping.
Police said that Aaron had an extensive criminal history including a felony theft of property convictions and they urgently wanted to speak to him in relation to Beverly's disappearance. He was found and arrested a day later, on the 29th of September, and questioned by police. According to police, Aaron admitted that he kidnapped Beverly but would not tell them where she was.
The next day, the 30th of September, cell phone data led police in the direction of a concrete plant. The owners of the plant gave police permission to search the property and land. The concrete business property was more than 20 miles away from the house in Scott at Argos Concrete Co., 12117 Arkansas 5 in Cabot. It was a rural area about 25 miles northeast of Little Rock.It was an area known to Aaron. He was familiar with it as he had previously worked there.
Police searched the property and discovered a shallow grave toward the back of the property. They found Beverly's body inside the shallow grave.
Aaron was charged with kidnapping and capital murder. He entered a preliminary innocent plea.
Police believed that Beverly had been a "target of opportunity” and was a complete stranger to Aaron until that day that he arranged to meet her at the Scott property. Aaron described Beverly as a woman who worked alone, a rich broker.
While it was initially believed that Aaron acted alone, the police investigation uncovered evidence which suggested that that was not the case. Aaron's wife, forty one year old Crystal Lowery, was arrested and charged with kidnapping and capital murder. Police found records showing communication between Beverly's phone and Crystal's phone and they claimed that it was clear from the communication that Crystal participated in the plan and kidnapping of Beverly which ultimately led to her death.
Before the Trial began, there were a few delays. One such delay was Aaron's insistence that he wanted to fire his Attorney and represent himself in Court:
"I would like to terminate my lawyer. I do not wish for Mr. Hensley to continue representing me. I've told him numbers of times he's been discharged."
Despite the Judge reminding him that he would be treated as an Attorney, he wanted to go ahead and as such, he began to represent himself at pre-Trial hearings. But it soon became apparent that it would not work as he needed help with certain filings and documents and drafting Motions for the Court. He complained that Prosecutors were not cooperating with him.
Despite Aaron insisting he did not want an Attorney as he was the one facing prison and the Attorney wasn't and therefore the case meant more to him, he finally asked the Judge to help him find an Attorney and Attorney Bill James was appointed to represent Aaron and the Trial was rescheduled.
Crystal opted to take a plea deal. In return for entering a guilty plea, she would receive a thirty year prison sentence and would have to testify against Aaron at his Trial. She agreed and pleaded guilty to kidnapping and first degree murder. The capital murder charge was reduced to first degree murder just before the guilty plea was entered.
Chief Deputy Prosecutor John Johnson believed the plea deal was a good deal as:
"It's always good when you have someone who is a participant in the crime who can help provide additional information and perspective for the jury, something other than just the investigative part of the case."
Aaron's Trial began in January 2016.
It was the Prosecution's case that Aaron and Crystal targeted and kidnapped Beverly as they planned to hold her for ransom and try to get her husband to pay for her release. According to Crystal, the sum they wanted was $100,000. They lured her to the house that was for sale as it was a rural home. It was the Prosecution's case that they tried to demand a ransom but when the plan began to unravel, they abandoned the ransom idea and decided to kill Beverly instead. Aaron killed Beverly by wrapping her head in duct tape.
The Prosecution told the Jury that Beverly died in agony and terror as she suffocated under the green tape that Aaron had wrapped across Beverly's face.
Dr. Charles Kokes of the Arkansas State Crime Lab testified that Beverly’s cause of death was asphyxia due to an external airway obstruction from a duct tape mask on her face.
Crystal testified on behalf of the Prosecution. She told the Court that they wanted money and devised a plan to kidnap a wealthy person and demand their husband pay a ransom. Aaron looked at potential victims and narrowed his search to real estate agents. Crystal told the Court that Aaron chose real estate agents based on their financial wealth. She testified that they wanted to target a woman who was married and who worked alone and someone who would have access to $100,000. They selected Beverly because they believed that she was rich.
Crystal told the Court about the initial plan. They called Beverly and identified themselves as Crystal and Steve Adams. The plan was for Aaron to kidnap Beverly and keep her in an abandoned office building at the concrete plant while they made ransom demands. But that plan quickly fell apart when they discovered that changes had been made to the concrete plant which would have made it impossible to hold Beverly there alive until the ransom was paid.
Crystal told the Court that when they met Beverly at the house, Aaron posing as Steve Adams, stayed and she went to work.
She testified that Aaron later sent her a picture of Beverly who was bound with green tape in the trunk of his car.
Due to changes made at the concrete plant, Aaron did not feel secure leaving Beverly there and as the plan fell through to leave her at the concrete plant, Aaron brought her back to their Jacksonville house.
They only discovered the changes after Aaron had already taken Beverly and when she in the trunk of their car.
According to Crystal, she told Aaron:
“Where are you going to take her because I don’t want her at the house?”
Crystal said there was nowhere else to take her and Aaron drove around for a while. Aaron was worried he may be pulled over by police so he went back to their house in Jacksonville.
The Court heard that he removed Beverly from the trunk of the car and locked her inside the bathroom. Crystal was tasked with guarding her with a stun gun.
Aaron had Beverly's debit card PIN and went back to the house where he kidnapped Beverly from to get her purse and bank card but when he got there, police were already there so he went back home.
It was the Prosecution's case that they forced Beverly to record a 12-second ransom message asking Carl, her husband, to cooperate or “it could be bad."
Carl did not hear that message until after Beverly's body was found.
Crystal and Aaron decided to just get rid of Beverly instead of pushing the ransom angle as she was inside their home and there was already a police presence so they knew police were looking for her. They decided that she would have to die as she may have seen Aaron's face and they were worried she may have seen prescription bottles in the bathroom that had Crystal's name on them.
The Court heard that Beverly's head was wrapped in duct tape and they left her to suffocate to death while her hands were tied behind her back.
The next morning, they purchased a shovel and buried Beverly’s body in a shallow grave at the concrete plant.
It was the Defense's case that Beverly's death was accidental. Aaron's Attorney told the Jury that Beverly died during a sexual tryst gone wrong. The Defense claimed that Beverly was never taken and had in fact willingly participated in a sexual encounter with both Crystal and Aaron.
It was the Defense's case that Aaron wasn't at home when Beverly died. They argued that she may have died during a consensual sex act with Crystal.
The Defense told the Jury that Beverly was going through a mid life crisis and had a secret life that her husband was not aware of. She was having marital and financial problems and the Defense questioned Carl in relation to that.
Carl admitted there had been problems in the past and that he cheated on his wife shortly after they married. He even confessed that on one occasion, during a drunken encounter, he punched Beverly. But Carl claimed that their married life was a good one and they were in a good place when Beverly died. They had been married thirty five years and they loved each other and adored their three children. Beverly loved spending time with her family and her grandchildren especially.
Aaron testified at his Trial. He told the Court that he had a deep distrust in the Judicial system. He was in trouble with the law in the past. He told the Jury that he initially admitted he was involved in Beverly's kidnapping as he was trying to protect his wife as Beverly died during a sexual encounter with Crystal.
According to Aaron, they did not force Beverly to record a ransom message for Carl. He claimed he used a software program to mimic her voice. When asked what software program he used, he claimed that he could not remember.
The Jury deliberated for around one hour. They found Aaron guilty of kidnapping and capital murder.
At Aaron's sentencing hearing, Beverly's son told the Court that his family had been brutalized by the claims Aaron made about his mother during the Trial. They were further saddened and hurt by the accusations made by the Defense that Beverly wasn't happily married. He told the Court that his parents had a great relationship and were very happy. Beverly had a lot to live for.
Beverly's family released a statement:
"We are devastated at the loss of our precious Beverly. There is now a hole in our hearts that will never be filled. Mr. Lewis robbed us of an amazing wife, loving mother and grandmother. Her grandkids will never get to the know the magnitude of her greatness."
Aaron was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
In 2014, Crystal wrote to Governor Asa Hutchinson and asked for her thirty year prison sentence to be cut in half on the basis that she had found God and taken part in multiple rehabilitation programs. In her letter, Crystal stated that she was ready to pay her debt to society outside:
"We all learn from our mistakes, but our mistakes are not who we are. I am willing to do anything I need to do to show I am rehabilitated and I am not a danger to anyone.”
Crystal's clemency petition was denied by the parole board in July 2020.
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"When someone just disappears for no reason, it's shocking, it's devastating. I just feel like my life stopped that day and I've just been in a tailspin ever since."
- Adam Vaughan, Janine's brother
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