James Carver is pictured reacting to comments from members of the victim's family during his sentencing in Highland County Common Pleas Court Thursday. (HCP Photo/Caitlin Forsha)
James Carver is pictured reacting to comments from members of the victim's family during his sentencing in Highland County Common Pleas Court Thursday. (HCP Photo/Caitlin Forsha)
A jury of nine women and three men have convicted James Carver of murder, rape, having weapons under disability, assault and tampering with evidence, following a trial that was held in Highland County Common Pleas Court on parts of four days.

Carver was indicted April 2 in a case involving the shooting and death of a 33-year-old Wilmington woman this February.

As previously reported, Carver, 40, of New Vienna, was charged with murder, an unclassified felony; rape, a first-degree felony; having weapons while under disability, a third-degree felony; domestic violence, a third-degree felony; and tampering with evidence, a third-degree felony.

 


The jury found Carver not guilty of domestic violence but found him guilty of a lesser charge of assault, a first-degree misdemeanor. He was found guilty on the other four counts as well as being found guilty of a specification that the offender displayed, brandished, indicated possession of or used a firearm.

Carver was sentenced to a minimum of 33 years to life in prison, with a six-month jail sentence to run concurrently, along with being classified as a Tier III sex offender.

The trial began Monday afternoon and continued Tuesday afternoon and all day Wednesday, with closing arguments and jury instruction presented Thursday morning. The case was handed over to the jury Thursday at 11:25 a.m., with deliberations beginning after a lunch break for the jury.

The jury handed written notice that verdicts on all five counts were reached around 5:30 p.m. Thursday evening.

For more on this case, click the links below.

After Highland County Clerk of Courts Ike Hodson read the verdicts, Coss thanked and excused the jury, then proceeded with sentencing, which he said there was “no reason to delay.”

Highland County prosecutor Anneka Collins and defense attorney John Cornely each made their recommendations on sentencing, with two members of the victim’s family also addressing the judge.

Collins recommended a minimum of 33 and a half years to life.

“You’ve heard the seriousness of this case and what [the victim] went through,” Collins said. “Additionally, you can consider his prior history.”

Both the victim’s daughter and the victim’s first cousin asked to address Coss. As both of them cried speaking about the victim, Carver also teared up and held his face in his hands.

“I would have never expected her to pass so soon,” the victim’s daughter said. “I have to deal with the mental trauma. She had to deal with physical abuse.”

The victim’s daughter added that she does “wish to forgive Carver for his mistakes.”

The victim’s cousin testified about what a “sweetheart” the victim was.

“A very bright and shining light has been taken from our family, and our family’s never going to be the same,” the victim’s cousin said.

Following comments from the victim’s family, Cornely told the judge that the defense recommended 23 years to life in prison.

“He has shown remorse from the beginning,” Cornely said of Carver. “I would ask the court to look at the facts of this case and address its seriousness as compared to other similar cases.”

Carver asked if he could face the members of the victim’s family who were seated in the courtroom, then cried as he stood and spoke to them.

“I’m sorry,” he told them. “I wish I could bring her back. I’d give my life for her, I swear. I’m sorry for your loss. I’m sorry.”

Coss then explained to Carver the Tier III sex offender classification before proceeding into sentencing. He opened by reviewing Carver’s criminal history, which included assault, abduction, domestic violence, falsification, arson and drug charges.

As previously reported, Carver was on parole in Missouri at the time of his arrest. Coss said he didn’t understand why Carver was not still in prison in Missouri, where he was convicted on drug charges.

“I got out last year,” Carver said.

“That was their mistake,” Coss said. “If you had been punished as you should have been, this never would have happened.

“If they had any discretion to keep you or release you, they should have kept you because your history predicts exactly what’s happened.”

Coss said Carver’s conviction Wednesday shows the jury “didn’t buy” Carver’s story that the victim’s death was accidental.

“One of the thing that struck me is that supposedly the reason you went to get the gun was to go after [someone else],” Coss said. “Yet the only action that took place is you shooting her.”

For the rape charge, Coss said there is “no way I can believe a woman who’d been shot would have the slightest thought of having sexual intercourse voluntarily.”

“It doesn’t make any sense,” Coss said. “It’s totally disregarding her condition.

“It was callous and showed total indifference to her life and situation.”

The judge told Carver his “indifference” was also shown through screenshots of texts Carver sent to another woman on the morning of the victim’s death.

“Within minutes of knowing she’s dying, or realizing she’s dying, you’re texting another woman,” Coss said. “On the day you’re found, you’re in the company of another woman. That again strikes me as having a total disregard for the life of [the victim].

“I’ve been involved in a lot of murder cases and homicides in 43 years as a prosecutor and judge. I think this woman suffered more than any victim I’ve seen that died.

“You let her bleed out internally,” Coss continued. “It’s like you were just hanging out, waiting for her to die, so you could get rid of the stuff and move on.”

Although the defense argued the victim’s death was accidental, Coss said “there’s no doubt in mind you pulled the trigger” and “the jury made the right call.”

“You’re crying here and showing emotion, but you know what, that’s just show,” Coss said. “You said you didn’t take her to the hospital because she had warrants. So what? What’s more important? Living? Isn’t that more important, even if it’s in jail? She wouldn’t have been in jail the rest of her life.”

Coss said evidence also indicated the victim was “prepared to go to jail.”

“I can’t imagine she’d rather die than go to jail,” Coss said. “Whatever charges she would have faced has no comparison to what she faced after you shot her, and that was a slow, and I think, probably very difficult and painful death.

“You decide to take her to the hospital, then decide not to and slap her and tell her to ‘straighten up [expletive].' Then you stand here and tell everyone you’re sorry. I don’t buy it.”

Coss told Carver, “I think you’re just sorry you got caught.”

Coss then outlined sentencing for each charge. Murder, an unclassified felony, carries a minimum of 15 years to life.

“The Parole Authority will determine if you serve the rest of your life, which, for the record, I hope you do, so you don’t harm anyone else,” Coss said.

The firearm specification to the murder charge carries a mandatory three-year sentence, which Coss imposed consecutively to the first sentence.

For the rape charge, Coss sentenced Carver to 10 years, and for the weapons under disability charge, Coss sentenced Carver to 30 months, both of which run consecutively to the other counts.

The misdemeanor assault charge sentence was for six months in the county jail, which Coss ordered to be run concurrently with the other counts.

For the final count, tampering with evidence, Coss ordered a 30-month prison sentence.

Carver will be placed in the Pickaway Correctional Institution in Orient. He will be credited with 168 days of jail time.