By LAUREN KEENE/McNaughton Newspapers
WOODLAND — The man accused of killing his 4-year-old daughter in Winters last month believed the girl was not his biological child, a Yolo County sheriff’s detective testified Friday in Yolo Superior Court.
Markeese Leavell Carter confessed to drugging, sexually abusing and drowning the girl to exact revenge against a friend he suspected of having an affair with his wife, said Detective Juan Ceja said during Carter’s preliminary hearing.
“The plan was to frame his friend, that his friend kidnapped his daughter and sexually assaulted her,” Ceja said of the events leading to Aminatu-Amaya Abdul-Raafi’s Nov. 19 death.
Friday’s hearing ended with Judge Paul Richardson finding sufficient evidence for Carter, 26, to stand trial on charges of first-degree murder, resisting arrest and sexual penetration of a minor, the latter count added Friday.
Carter’s family has disputed the allegations, describing him as a loving, overprotective father who struggles with mental health issues, including post-traumatic stress disorder, stemming from a stint in the National Guard.
His mother, Willene Callen, audibly gasped as some of the revelations were aired in court Friday. She and two other women who accompanied her declined to comment after the hearing.
According to Ceja, Carter admitted to slipping six tablets of Trazodone and Prazosin — antidepressant and anti-anxiety drugs, respectively — into a peanut butter and jelly sandwich the girl ate while picnicking with her father and younger sister along Putah Creek.
“He told me had a plan to kill Amaya and that the pills were to kill her,” Ceja said. But at some point the plan changed, and Carter instead tossed the girl into the creek, then retrieved her body and performed cursory CPR “so it would look like he attempted to save her.”
The younger sister, 3, apparently noticed nothing until the splash as Amaya went into the creek. Asked why he killed Amaya, Carter replied, “Probably just mad — I don’t f—in’ know,” Ceja said.
A Sacramento resident, Carter took his girls to stay with his mother at the El Rio Villas housing complex on Nov. 18 after feuding with his wife the night before about the paternity of Amaya and the couple’s unborn child, Ceja testified.
The next day, a Sunday, Carter packed up lunches for the girls and set off on a nature walk. His brother, William Roberson, told authorities Carter later came back to the apartment wet and frantic.
“He said that the victim Amaya had drowned,” Ceja testified. “He said he wasn’t paying attention.”
Roberson followed Carter to the creek, finding Amaya lying on her back, her feet facing toward the water. Roberson began CPR and carried the girl up an embankment to a soccer field, where another man took her to medical personnel who had arrived on scene.
Carter was combative with the first responders, pushing them away as they performed life-saving efforts and lying on top of the girl when they attempted to place her on a gurney, Ceja said.
They ultimately were able to transport her to Sutter Davis Hospital, where a nurse observed evidence of a possible sexual assault.
Deputies, meanwhile, arrested Carter at the housing complex. His explanation for what happened to Amaya underwent several changes, from her jumping in the water to play to him “blacking out” and waking up find her in the water.
When the interview turned to the suspected sexual-assault injuries, Carter became irritable, Ceja recalled. He said a handcuffed Carter stood up and charged at him, causing injuries to his face — the basis for the charge of resisting an officer.
Carter requested another interview at the jail the next day. Though jittery and grunting, Carter answered Ceja’s questions and disclosed the plan to kill his daughter and frame his friend, the detective said.
Asked for his friend’s name, Carter gave two: “Abdul Kareem” and “Tony Diaz.” Diaz is a Yolo County sheriff’s deputy killed in the line of duty in 2008, whose name adorns the street leading to the Woodland jail and multiple plaques in his honor at the sheriff’s office and detention center.
Ceja also said Carter spoke of hearing voices, and that “something told him he had to choose between one or the other” of his two daughters.
When Carter’s public defender Ron Johnson asked if Ceja questioned him further about the voices, Ceja said he did not.
“During the way it (the interview) flowed, that questioning did not come up,” Ceja said. He also acknowledged he did not explore inconsistencies in Carter’s statements, such as how he intended to frame his friend when he was nowhere near the crime scene.
Carter returns to court Dec. 22 for further proceedings.
Friday’s preliminary hearing marked Carter’s first appearance in court, as he refused to leave his holding cell for his Nov. 22 arraignment.
He remained relatively calm during the hourlong proceeding but at one point became agitated as Ceja described the alleged interview-room assault, loudly tearing paper from a legal pad and crumpling it.
Carter also initially refused to leave the courtroom following the hearing, ignoring bailiffs’ orders to rise from his chair. When he did, he struggled with the officers as they led him out a door leading to a holding cell.
— Reach Lauren Keene at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-747-8048. Follow her on Twitter at @laurenkeene.