Tiffany Carter, 48, was in sheer terror after learning in early October that her 25-year-old son Rasheem Ryelle Carter was in fear of his life only two days before he wound up missing in Taylorsville in Smith County.
The last communication the Fayette mother had with Rasheem, who also lived in Fayette, was on October 1 and 2. Having worked 9 hours Saturday, he was trying to get a ride from work in Taylorsville back to the Motel 8 in Laurel where he was living temporarily. He was a contract worker at the Georgia Pacific plant in Taylorsville and was used to the travel routine.
But on this first weekend in October, the co-worker he usually rode with was in a huff and told him he wouldn’t allow him to ride with him anymore. The next day he disappeared, leaving no signs behind beyond cashing out $500 from his debit card account on October 4.
The police report says Rasheem went to the Taylorsville Police Station on both Oct. 1 and 2 and told the police about his concerns. The report also says he told his mother on the phone that he had seen “three trucks full of white men after him.”
Officer Brad White of the Taylorsville Police Dept. said he talked with Rasheem’s boss at the Georgia Pacific plant, and the man said that “the other workers had left and Rasheem asked him to come back and get him.”
At a Jr. Food Mart in the downtown area, Rasheem had asked people for a ride, offering to pay them gas money, but had no success.
A month would go by before Smith County Sheriff Joel Houston would contact Rasheem’s mother on November 1 and ask if she could identify a figure captured on a hunter’s video in a wooded area south of Taylorsville. She confirmed that the man in the picture looked like her son.
A day later, the remains of a mangled body were found at the deer park off Highway 37 a little over a mile south of Taylorsville.
The body was then transferred to the Mississippi Crime Lab and remains there under the authority of the State Medical Examiner.
Although Ms. Carter has not seen the actual remains, her son’s wallet and ID card, his jeans, and other personal items found with the body convinced her that it all belonged to Rasheem.
The FBI has since come into the investigation and is working with local police and sheriff’s investigators.
Sheriff Houston says his office had followed a number of leads that had led to no conclusive findings. But after he received the picture from the deer park that showed an image of Rasheem, they brought in cadaver dogs and thoroughly searched the area near the park.
“We continued to search the area and found what we believe to be the remains of Rasheem Carter,” he said. “We were also able to find some identifying factors and property that we know is his.”
On Nov. 2, Smith County authorities informed Tiffany Carter and her family that Rasheem was dead, having found the skeletal remains along with his wallet and identification. The sheriff issued a statement that no foul play was suspected.
Marnee Tompkins of Byram, Rasheem’s aunt, said October 2 was the last day he talked to his mother. He was calling from inside the Family Dollar/Dollar Tree store in Taylorsville.
“He talked to his mama on the phone on October 2 and he was in a panic mode,” she said. “He told her he couldn’t get a ride to his motel in Laurel, and said to her, ‘If I come up missing, there are three trucks of white men after me.’”
Knowing that some select spots within the Pine Belt area are known for the presence of white supremacist groups like the Aryan Nation and devotees of the KKK, Carter was anxious to calm her son’s fears and to get him to a safe place.
Rasheem also named someone in the line of authority in his complex workspace that posed a threat to him and should be considered a person of interest, if not outright suspicion, if he should be harmed to any unusual extent. The FBI and the police have that information.
During that last conversation with his mother, he told her, “Mama, I’m smart. I’m not crazy.”
He left the store that Sunday after the phone conversation and Tiffany Carter called her best friend to go down to Taylorsville to pick him up. That friend followed her directions and arrived in Taylorsville around 1:30 or 2 o’clock that Sunday afternoon, but there was no sign of Rasheem.
Despite Rasheem’s appeal to the Taylorsville police on both Saturday, Oct. 1, and Sunday, Oct. 2, asking them to help him get to his motel in Laurel, the law officers said they could only help him get to a hotel in Taylorsville, but he didn’t want to go there.
“The police told him they couldn’t help him and he couldn’t stay around the station and that they couldn’t give him a ride to Laurel,” his mother said. “So, they put him out.”
There is no account of where Rasheem slept that Saturday night.
Rasheem came back to downtown Taylorsville the second day, Oct. 2, around 5:50 in the morning, his mother said.
He was talking on the phone, walking and talking while on the phone, for over an hour. The phone went dead, and nobody had a charger.
On Oct. 2, he went back to the police station, asking for help. Again, the police officers dismissed him. He went back to the Family Dollar/Dollar Tree where he was last seen.
There was no word from Rasheem over the next five days. His family filed missing persons reports with Laurel and Taylorsville police and with the sheriff’s office.
On Oct. 7, Taylorsville Police Department contacted Tiffany Carter and reported they had searched for Rasheem but had not found him.
On Oct. 8, Tiffany Carter and her family organized the Carter Family Support Search Team with 20 members in all. They went to Taylorsville to search for themselves, passing out missing-person leaflets with Rasheem’s picture.
They looked for leads at the Jr. Food Mart, Family Dollar/Dollar Tree, gas stations, and the Taylorsville Police Department.
Marnee Tompkins, Rasheem’s aunt, says that on Oct. 8, members of the family went into the Family Dollar/Dollar Tree and asked if anybody had looked at the videotaped footage from the store’s cameras and was told no.
“They let my sister into the backroom and they went through about 2 hours of footage, going back from Oct. 8 to Oct. 2,” Tompkins said.
“My sister recorded it on her phone: You can see my nephew walking all up and down the aisles; he’s pacing, he’s on the phone. He’s not buying anything. It was like he was hiding out.
“We can see him walking out of the store, but it only captures so much, and that’s it. It looks like he’s heading back in the direction of the police station, probably a quarter of a mile.
“They [some of the group] talked to officer Brad White, who was cooperative, until he said we were acting like he was trying to cover up something.”
He was very defensive until family members assured him that they were not accusing him, Tomkins said.
“He told us about Rasheem coming into the station and asking them if they had Uber service,” she said. “They said no, then he went out and sat on a bench.”
Plans for memorial services for Rasheem are being held in abeyance during the State Crime Lab investigation, Ms. Carter said Sunday.
“We’ve paid for the funeral arrangements already,” she said, “but we can’t do anything until the crime lab releases his body.
Rasheem’s Aunt Felicia Kaho says the family did not get a chance to see the remains that were almost certainly those of her nephew. No one in the family was on the scene when the Smith County authorities discovered the remains and sent them first to a local funeral home and then to the Mississippi crime lab in Pearl.
“My sister is very angry,” Kaho said. “The only contact she’s had with the crime lab was when they came to swab her inner jaw for a DNA sample.”
Kaho lives in New York and was not a part of the search party.
“As soon as the Crime Lab finishes, then I’ll fly in,” she said.