SANDERS —Wade Curtis Carter, 48 pleaded guilty on Oct. 12 in the Apache County Superior Court to murdering his wife or girlfriend Latisha Bizer by destroying her body with a wood splitting maul and a spear on March 15 in Sanders.
He pleaded guilty to an amended count of second degree murder, a Class 1 Felony. He was originally charged with first-degree murder which alleged that he killed Bizer with premeditation. Carter was also charged with other crimes: assault, concealing a dead body and tampering with evidence, but those charges are expected to be dismissed. The victim’s sister told the Independent on Tuesday that the family had not been told of the plea or the range of sentence, described below.
Under the terms of the plea agreement, the sentencing judge who presumably will be Presiding Judge Michael Latham, will have a range of sentence to hand down on Jan. 13, 2022 when Carter is set to be sentenced. The range of prison time starts at 10 years; the maximum under the agreement is 25 years. Other terms state that Carter has prior felony convictions but they will not be used to automatically enhance his sentence; that is, placing Carter in the “repetitive” category on Arizona’ sentencing chart, but the judge can consider the priors as “aggravators” which can justify a sentence toward the higher end of the range agreed to.
Earlier in the case, two family members and a friend of the deceased Latisha Bizer had contacted the Independent to put a human face on the 38-year-old Bizer.
On Tuesday morning, Latisha’s sister, 40-year-old Tunisia Bizer, said that she had not heard that Carter was going to plead guilty on Oct. 12 and was surprised at the range of prison term. She said that the prosecutors told her that they would seek 39 or more years as a sentence. She said that the high end of the range ultimately agreed to, 25 years, isn’t enough. Tunisia also claimed that she didn’t know the sentencing date of Jan. 13, which she said happens to be two days after the deceased Latisha’s birthday.
Tunisia told the Independent that the Apache County Attorney’s Office had been very attentive to the Bizer family as victims; in fact, she said, County Attorney Michael Whiting and team members had paid her an in-person visit earlier on in the case. The Independent relayed to Bizer the attorneys’ in-court statements during the change of plea hearing that the state wanted ample time to present to the court the victims’ view about the upcoming sentence, and that the judge had blocked off three hours in the afternoon of Jan. 13, 2022 for that purpose.
The case started at around 8:30 a.m. on March 15 when an Apache County Sheriff’s deputy responded to reports of a fight. Upon arrival, the deputy discovered the deceased lying on a floor covered with a blanket. Her husband or boyfriend Carter, was “covered in blood,” according to court records. Carter allegedly had blood on his face, shirt and pants. He had reportedly cleaned blood off of his hands before the deputy arrived.
According to Apache County Chief Deputy Roscoe Herrera, investigators from the Arizona Department of Public Safety in Phoenix assisted with the examination of the crime scene. Victim Bizer was found to have the back of her head bashed in and multiple stab wounds in her body.
The “blunt force trauma” as the deputy described it, was caused by a “wood splitting maul” according to the direct complaint filed with the Apache County Superior Court on March 18. That is an instrument typically weighing 5 pounds on the sharpened business end of it, and is used for splitting wood. Investigators stated a “bloody hammer,” was found, probably the maul, in a metal shed described as Carter’s “man cave,” where he allegedly stayed at the property.
Investigators also found a “large knife secured to an ax handle,” near the deceased’s body. As well as the head trauma, the victim also was found to have “multiple stab wounds to the body,” according to a deputy’s statement.
Relatives, friend speak out
Bizer’s 15-year-old daughter reached out to the Independent, with the knowledge and consent of her guardian, she said. Because of her age, she will not be named. The daughter said that Carter had been in the daughter’s life since she was a little girl and that Carter and her mother had other children together. She describes him as “crazy about a lot of things,” but that he is smart and educated. The family of six lived together, including when Carter got out of prison in July 2015, for what the minor said was Carter damaging the windows of a van of a close family friend. Carter is alleged to have a long criminal history including burglary and robbery. He is disabled due to “Grandma seizures,” he told authorities in writing, probably meant to describe grand mal seizures. The daughter doesn’t believe it; she stated that Carter is “crazy about a lot of things,” but she doubts that he has a bona fide seizure disorder.
Bizer’s sister Tunisia was interviewed on April 6, by phone and agrees with her niece. Bizer-explained that Carter is “a little off,” but always was “very aware of things he was doing.” She claimed that Carter does not have a seizure problem; he had “one little seizure,” that she knows about and believes it was caused by alcohol. She paints a picture of a heavy drinking abusive man who had “a lot of control” over the deceased, and spoke of Carter “beating on the kids,” in his household. She said that on one point, the oldest son whom Carter is said to have picked on the most, moved to Pennsylvania. That child’s “absence caused him (Carter) to become more abusive,” to the other kids, she said. It was she who had to identify her sister’s body by video link.
Sister Tunisia speculated that the manner of death was so gruesome because it was an attempt by Carter to “take her identity.” The body had to be cremated in order to be transported to California; the coroner was unable to embalm the victim because there were too many holes in the body that it wouldn’t hold embalming fluid, the sister said. A service for Latisha took place on April 26 in Sacramento.
A friend of the deceased, one Jennifer Frandsen, also wrote. Frandsen met Latisha “when they were both in a domestic violence shelter ten years ago in Sacramento,” she stated. “She was short in size, very sweet and has a huge heart ... her friends and family lovingly called her Pumpkin.” The friend observed that “Pumpkin did well (in the shelter) and we all thought that she had moved on from that chapter. At some point she got back together with Curtis (Carter) and as all abusers do, he segregated her from her friends and family,” she said. At some point, the authorities ended up removing the children from the household.
“I am so saddened that the beautiful light she was and is will never shine again,” stated Jennifer Frandsen. For those in need of help with a domestic violence situation, log on to azlawhelp.org for a list of 11 nearby agencies that can provide assistance.
As stated, sentencing is set for January 13, 2022.