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Man Awaits Death Sentence for Murders of 3 : Crime: Dean Philip Carter is accused of strangling five women in 18 days. He still faces trial in two of the cases.

January 29, 1990|ERIC MALNIC | TIMES STAFF WRITER

"I intend to be at the execution," the gentle, gray-haired woman said quietly. "I want to see him die."

The tall, handsome, often charming man Sue Mills was talking about is Dean Philip Carter, 34, adopted son of a police chief, doting father of twins and skilled television cameraman who did commended work on a documentary about the heritage of Eskimos.

He is also the man accused of strangling five California women--one of them Sue Mills' daughter--after raping at least two of them and two other women, all in the space of 18 days. Authorities say that in addition, he is a suspect in several other rapes.

Convicted last year in three of those 1984 murders--the slayings of Jillette Leonora Mills and Susan Knoll in Culver City and Bonnie Ann Guthrie in West Los Angeles--Carter is scheduled to be formally sentenced to death Tuesday. He still faces trial in the murders of Tok Chum Kim in Oakland and Janette Ann Cullins in San Diego.

During the complex legal proceedings that have dragged on for more than five years, Carter has never shown the slightest remorse, according to Marsh Goldstein, the Los Angeles deputy district attorney who won the three murder convictions.

"He never said that he was sorry. He never said anything," Goldstein said. "He's one of the most evil people I've ever seen--an absolutely awful, non-human being.

"If you believe society has the right to impose the death penalty . . . then this is the case where it should be applied."

Helen Cullins, the mother of victim Janette Cullins, put it more succinctly:

"I think he should be strangled," she said. "That's the way he killed my daughter."

Police say Carter knew all his victims, most of whom he had met in bars and restaurants.

"He's a very smooth-talking individual," said Richard Haas, an investigator in one of the rape cases. "He could meet somebody and sell himself in a very brief time."

Searching for what may have prompted the brutal crimes for which Carter is blamed and convicted, prosecutors and probation officials can point only to his troubled childhood in Alaska and a marriage that ended in estrangement from the sons he loved.

Born the illegitimate son of a half-Eskimo woman in Nome, Alaska, on Aug. 30, 1955, Carter was later adopted by the man who married his mother and served as police chief, fire chief and justice of the peace in the remote community on the bleak, wind-swept shores of the Bering Sea.

Probation reports and testimony elicited by defense attorneys indicate the boy defied his strict and alcoholic parents at an early age. At one point, before he had reached the age of 10, his stepfather reportedly shackled him to his bed to keep him from wandering Nome's streets at night.

When he was 12, Carter was declared a delinquent child and committed to a youth camp, from which he attempted to run away at least three times. He later was placed in a foster home. According to Goldstein, Carter's crimes continued and "by the time he was 14 or 15, he was a fairly confirmed burglar." He later served adult prison terms in Oregon for auto theft and in Alaska for burglary.

While in prison in Alaska, Carter was trained as a television cameraman and video technician. And for a while, it looked as though things might turn out all right for Dean Philip Carter.

After he was released in 1979, Carter landed a series of jobs with television stations in Alaska. While working as a cameraman in Nome, he was part of a team that won an award for a documentary on the Eskimo heritage.

Charlie Johnson, one of Carter's bosses on the project, remembered Carter as "just a normal guy, very attractive, very handsome."

"He was holding steady employment, getting involved in the community," said Nome Police Sgt. Mike Murphy. "He spent quite a bit of time down in the bars, but everybody here spends time in the bars, especially in the winter."

It was about that time that Carter met and married a woman--previously married, with a daughter--who lived in that area. Not long afterward, Carter's wife gave birth to twin sons.

"He doted on those sons, but he was never around, moving all the time from job to job," Goldstein said. "He romanticized his position as a husband and a father, but it was make-believe--all of the desire but none of the performance."

After about three years, Carter's wife divorced him.

"She got custody of the children and would not let him see them," Goldstein said. "He told friends he was very angry, very bitter."

Carter got more jobs as a cameraman, working briefly in Seattle before returning to Alaska. There, in the latter part of 1983, he met friends who offered to let him stay with them in Honolulu. In December, 1983, Carter flew to Hawaii, signing on about a month later as a deckhand on a yacht that was headed for San Diego.

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