By Phillip Williams
Carlton Lamar Grant was automatically sentenced to life imprisonment without parole last Thursday when a 115th District Court jury in Gilmer took fewer than 25 minutes to convict him of the 2018 capital murder of a Longview woman.
Grant, 42, of the Dallas-Ft. Worth area, is one of two persons charged with the March 29, 2018, strangulation death of Rachel Ann Rhoads, 24, who is believed to have been slain in Gregg County before her body was dumped and burned in Upshur County near Diana.
Within minutes after the verdict, Grant signed a notice he will appeal his conviction, said his lead trial lawyer, Longview attorney Kevin Settle. A different attorney will be appointed to represent the defendant, Settle said.
Key state testimony in the 4-day trial came from Grant’s co-defendant, Lindsey Jo McFadden, who testified Oct 10 that Rhoads was giving her and Grant a ride in the Longview area when Grant, in the back seat, “come up behind Rachel with something in his hand and began to choke her.”
With a wire around her neck, Grant pulled Rhoads into the back seat, leaving the car “uncontrollable,” McFadden said. (The witness testified she was in the front passenger seat.) Rhoads was fighting and gasping for air, but Grant “hit her a couple of times and put her into the floorboard,” also placing a zip tie around her neck, the witness added.
Eventually, according to testimony, license plates were removed from Rhoads’ auto and her body was placed in the trunk before the remains were dumped and burned in a field near the intersection of FM 726 and Texas 154. They were discovered April 1, 2018, which was Easter Sunday.
Grant and McFadden were arrested that April 5 in the Ft. Worth area, initially on charges unrelated to the slaying.
Upshur County District Attorney Billy Byrd told the jury Grant wanted to steal Rhoads’ car to go buy drugs.
Grant, who did not testify but gave a recorded interview to officers that was shown to the jury, told trial Judge Dean Fowler after the state rested its case that he had been unable to find his “alibi witness.” Fowler, however, denied Settle’s motion to delay the trial and the defense rested Thursday without calling a witness.
Grant was automatically sentenced to life without parole because Byrd, who led the prosecution team, didn’t seek the death penalty. Under state law, those are the only two sentences for capital murder.
The crime was considered capital murder rather than just murder because Grant was accused of being in the act of kidnapping, or trying to kidnap, Rhoads when she was killed. Byrd said Monday he didn’t seek the death penalty because the state had no evidence to support that allegation other than the testimony by Grant’s co-defendant, and that she had not been promised anything in exchange for her testimony.
Her case is still pending, Byrd indicated.
By Phillip Williams