Tuesday, July 07, 2015

TOP STORY >> Murder accomplice pleads guilty

Leader staff writer

Crystal Lowery was sentenced on Tuesday to 30 years in prison after pleading guilty to the kidnapping and killing of real estate agent Beverly Carter.

The victim’s body was found Sept. 27 in a shallow grave near Hwy. 5 in north Pulaski County. Carter was reported missing a few days earlier, when she didn’t return from showing a house in Scott.

Lowery, 42, of Sherwood, looked frightened and teary-eyed upon entering Pulaski County Circuit Judge Herb Wright’s courtroom. She will be eligible for parole in 21 years.

Prosecutors dropped the capital murder charge against Lowery down to a first-degree murder charge in exchange for her guilty plea and promise to testify against her estranged husband, Arron Lewis.

Lowery, who previously pleaded not guilty, told reporters as she was leaving court that she was sorry for Carter’s death.

Chief deputy prosecutor John Johnson told reporters the victim’s family was pleased with the verdict and it would help them start to seek closure.

He also said Lowery’s plea bargain was a good deal for the state. Her testimony will give the jury a different perspective from investigative files in the already “strong” case against her husband, Johnson explained.

He added that no plea deal had been offered to or requested by Lewis.

The victim’s relatives, friends and co-workers filled most of the crowded courtroom and left without commenting.

The investigation showed that Carter had texted Lowery’s phone. The victim’s phone was found in Lewis’ possession.

Lewis, 34, confessed to police but later told a State Hospital therapist it was coerced because he was beaten and interrogated for 12 hours.

Lowery has filed for a divorce from Lewis, who has contested it. Divorce documents filed with the court state that she didn’t know he had been convicted of seven felonies when they wed on April 20, 2014.

Lewis, of Gravel Ridge, will stand trial Jan. 12 for the capital murder and kidnapping of Carter. A pre-trial hearing is set for Oct. 5.

A mental evaluation submitted to court earlier this year declared that he is mentally competent to stand trial. It also found that Lewis has antisocial personality disorder.

According to the report, he told a therapist from the State Hospital that he could prove Lowery is innocent.

A mental evaluation was not requested for her, and Lewis told the therapist he would not seek a plea of not guilty by reason of mental disease of defect.

The accused elected to not cooperate in the evaluation of his mental state at the time of the alleged offenses. He denied kidnapping and murdering Carter, according the report.

Lewis previously said he would be representing himself, but a motion submitted last month for the court to appoint a public defender has since been approved.

In the motion, Lewis claims he was “not being given a fair opportunity to examine physical evidence and present a defense.”

Having violated his parole, Lewis is incarcerated at the Tucker maximum-security unit.

The typed divorce complaint Lowery filed states that the two separated on Aug. 27, 2014. It also asserts that they have no shared property, debt issues or children and no children are expected.

Lewis’ handwritten answer disputes all of her claims and states that his wife may be pregnant. It also argues that the two have shared property, debt, a bank account and two dogs that ownership of has not been resolved.

Lewis more recently filed a motion to dismiss the divorce if Lowery has no objections. It states that division of property and debt is no longer practical and that they should finalize their divorce at a later date.