WOODLAND — The defendant was nowhere to be found as a Yolo Superior Court commissioner read the charges filed Wednesday in connection with his 4-year-old daughter’s death.
“My understanding is he’s refusing transport upstairs,” Supervising Deputy Public Defender Ron Johnson, who had just accepted Markeese Leavell Carter’s case on his office’s behalf, said when prosecutors requested an explanation.
So as Carter remained in an inmate holding area in the courthouse’s basement, Commissioner Kent O’Mara continued the arraignment hearing in his absence, reading felony charges of first-degree murder and resisting arrest with threats, force or violence. Johnson entered a not-guilty plea.
O’Mara scheduled a preliminary hearing in the case for Dec. 8. To read the full complaint, click here: carter complaint
Carter, 26, is accused of killing his daughter Aminatu-Amaya Abdul-Raafi, whose body was discovered Sunday evening in Putah Creek near Winters, where relatives said Carter and his daughters, who live in Sacramento, had been visiting family.
Yolo County sheriff’s detectives who took Carter into custody also sought charges of sexual assault and child endangerment, but those counts were omitted from the criminal complaint filed days later.
“The investigation isn’t yet complete,” Chief Deputy District Attorney Jonathan Raven said when asked about the discrepancy. “It’s not uncommon for us to add charges and amend the complaint” when new evidence becomes available.
In light of Carter’s courtroom no-show, the Yolo County Sheriff’s Office released his jail booking photo, which appears to show Carter strapped to a board. Sources with the agency indicated he had been uncooperative during the booking process.
Carter’s family says the allegations against him are highly out of character. His mother Willene Callen, whose El Rio Villas housing complex the family had been visiting, has described her son as an overprotective father who adored his two daughters.
According to Callen, Carter had taken the girls to a playground in the complex to explore nature and read books when Aminatu-Amaya, the older of the two sisters, wandered away. Carter later found her in the creek, she said.
Carter’s uncle, Shaun Carter, echoed the family’s support of the defendant to reporters Wednesday before the arraignment hearing.
“I want everybody to know that my nephew was a loving son, a loving nephew, a loving brother,” he said, noting that Markeese Carter suffers from mental-health issues stemming from his service in the National Guard. “When he came back, he wasn’t the same.”
“I’m glad he didn’t come out,” he added about Markeese Carter’s refusal to appear in court, where numerous media photographers waited to take his picture. “I don’t want to sensationalize it any more. We just want to see what the facts are.”
— Reach Lauren Keene at email@example.com or 530-747-8048. Follow her on Twitter at @laurenkeene