Friends remember stormy affair that ended in standoff, death — (The News & Observer)

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The News & Observer

August 30, 1996


The instant he laid eyes on Anitra Coburn, Douglas Layne Carter became smitten with the blond teenager who was 13 years his junior. He was so taken, in fact, that a few days after their first date, a concert at Walnut Creek Amphitheatre, he persuaded her to move in with him.

That was a little more than a year ago. And while the love affair became rocky and even abusive, friends and neighbors say Carter’s feelings for Coburn only grew more intense as the 33-year-old boat-builder from Greenville steadily lost control of his emotions.

Jealous of the way people would stare when Coburn wore her bikini in the yard, Carter built a 6-foot-tall fence around a patio and ordered his girlfriend to sunbathe in private. He also bluntly warned a neighbor never to speak to her again, worried that they were flirting behind his back.

The relationship fell apart this summer when Carter was charged with beating and kidnapping Coburn. She moved out, but he continued to stalk her, in spite of a domestic- violence protective order filed against him, according to documents in the case.

Their conflict turned to crisis when Carter took Coburn hostage and holed up in a Franklin County mobile home near Louisburg. For seven days, authorities begged him to release her unharmed. But on Wednesday, authorities say he shot and killed her as she begged for her life, then turned the shotgun on himself.

Contrary to his intentions, Carter is still alive. He was listed in serious condition Thursday at UNC Hospitals, although the gunshot decimated his jaw. Authorities are waiting for a chance to interview him before charging him in the hostage-taking incident, said Franklin County Sheriff Robert Redmond.

On Thursday, things seemed to be returning to normal on White Level Road. Gone were the dozens of marked and unmarked police cars that had been there since the previous Thursday – as well as the roadblocks.

The trailer remains surrounded by yellow police tape; its windows are shot out, the front door is marked up, and glass is everywhere. At least a half-dozen brown doors with gold knobs – apparently used by Carter to board up the trailer – lie on top of one another in the back yard.

Just behind the trailer in some bushes, five empty tear-gas cartridges lay on the grass near what appears to be a barricade erected of tree limbs and wood. Another barricade in the front of the trailer was made of 12 cinder blocks.

A long piece of wire is attached to one of the poles on the side of the trailer, but there’s no evidence of bombs. Authorities say Carter insisted repeatedly throughout the standoff that he had explosives and that the trailer was rigged to blow.ay they were fake explosives.”

Redmond said officials now believe Coburn – who turned 20 last week while being held hostage in the trailer – was shot twice instead of once. “Once with a .22 in the back of the head, and above the left ear with a sawed-off shotgun.”

Investigators say they still don’t know what led Carter to attempt a murder-suicide, especially since they had agreed to his demand to allow him to be taken safely to Dorothea Dix Hospital, a state mental institution in Raleigh. It’s unclear why Carter made the request, although court documents indicate that he had been taking medication for depression.

But friends and neighbors say they had been concerned about Carter’s relationship with Coburn from the start.

“Everybody paints Doug as the villain, and don’t get me wrong, I’m not defending what he did,” said Martha Taylor of Greenville, who knew them both. “But she was a wild girl. She liked to party and drink. She made me so mad that I wanted to stomp the heck out of her myself sometimes.”

Taylor and her husband had hired Carter last summer to remodel the inside of her mobile home across the street from the Greenville airport. He worked at nights after finishing his assembly-line shift at Grady-White Boats Inc., and he soon took notice of Coburn, who was living next door to the Taylors.

Taylor introduced them, but she quickly regretted it, thinking they wouldn’t be a good match. Now she feels guilty, saying she should have done more to keep them apart.

“In a way, I feel responsible because if he had never come over here, he would never had met her and none of this would have happened,” she said, breaking into tears.

But they soon moved into Coburn’s trailer, located two miles away on N.C. 33 in the West Wind mobile home park.

Neighbors said they knew the couple squabbled, but they didn’t think it was unusual at first.

Roy Warren, who lives next door with his brother, Ronald, said Carter served as block captain of the local neighborhood watch group and spent many hours laboring to spruce up his home and lot. He built a deck and front porch, and he tended to his flower garden, where marigolds and zinnias still bloom.

“He kept his yard clean and pretty much kept to himself,” said Warren. “Every once in a while, he came out into the yard to holler at her, but I never thought much of it.”

Ronald Warren worked at the boat-manufacturing plant with Carter and said he was known as a hard worker, although he was fired in July for absenteeism after almost three years with the company. “He seemed like a regular guy,” Warren said.

Carter also seemed unusually protective, such as when he fenced in a patio so none of the neighbors could watch while Coburn soaked up the sun wearing a bikini. He also warned Ronald Warren that he’d better not catch him chatting with his girlfriend again because he didn’t like the way he acted with her.

The couple’s problems became more apparent when sheriff’s deputies arrested Carter in July and charged him with assaulting Coburn, hitting her in the face and choking her. Later, authorities also charged him with assault with intent to kill, saying he hit her in the back of the head with a .22-caliber bolt-action rifle.

In court documents, investigators described one incident at the trailer in which Carter forced Coburn at gunpoint to write a suicide letter to her grandparents while he wrote a suicide note of his own. Authorities said Carter also locked her in a closet for hours at a time and handcuffed her to a bed. They charged him with first-degree kidnapping.  Carter was awaiting his court date on those charges when he visited the Taylors about a month ago. He asked them to serve as a character witness at his trial.

The Taylors agreed. They considered Carter to be a responsible young man in spite of his legal troubles. They also knew his mother, Joyce Dail Carter, and an aunt and uncle who lived across the road in the same trailer park.   But they worried about what was going to happen to Carter. “Before he left, Doug said he’d rather be dead than go to prison,” Martha Taylor remembered

Copyright 1996 by The News & Observer Pub. Co.

Record Number:  RNOB96242062