GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The man found guilty of a 1990 murder more than two decades after it happened may have also framed another man for the sexual assault of a young girl, the Kent County prosecutor says.
Investigators with the Grand Rapids Police Department now believe Aurelias Marshall framed Quentin Lavel Carter for the rape that Marshall perpetrated in 1991.
Marshall was convicted on Monday of the murder of 23-year-old Joel Battaglia, who was beaten to death in 1990. It was during the investigation into Battaglia’s murder that new information regarding Carter’s case came out, prompting authorities to reinvestigate and reach the “inescapable conclusion” that Carter was wrongfully convicted, a release from Kent County Prosecutor Bill Forsyth said.
“We sent somebody to prison who was not guilty of what it was we charged him with,” Forsyth told 24 Hour News 8 on Wednesday.
GRPD learned that Marshall forced the 10-year-old victim, his live-in girlfriend’s daughter, to incriminate Carter by physically and psychologically abusing her. According to the Wednesday release, investigators believe that Marshall targeted Carter because Carter owed him drug money.
The girl was allegedly assaulted on Sept. 3, 1991, but her mother didn’t immediately report the incident and waited 10 days to take the girl to the hospital to be examined, the prosecutor said. No DNA evidence was recovered.
“The daughter was taken to the hospital back then. She was badly beaten. She also had injuries consistent with being sexually assaulted. She identified a neighbor — 16-year-old, soon to be 17-year-old neighbor — as the person who did this to her; the sexual part, not the beating,” Forsyth said.
Shortly before his 17th birthday in February 1992, Carter was convicted of first-degree criminal sexual conduct. He served almost 17 years in prison — longer than the minimum 6-year sentence because he refused to admit guilt and participate in a counseling program for convicted sex offenders while in prison. What was seen then as a lack of remorse was part of the reason he was repeatedly denied parole.
Court documents say that the victim has now admitted that Carter did not assault her and that she lied under oath.
“In the course of the investigative subpoena while under oath, she tells us this kid — the 16-year-old — did not do this to her, that she had lied at the trial. The reason she lied at the trail is because Marshall beat her,” Forsyth said.
Authorities now think Marshall assaulted the girl. Additionally, investigators say that in January 1992, Marshall pleaded guilty to child abuse involving the same girl.
Forsyth told 24 Hour News 8 that considering the evidence and statements that investigators had at the time, he doesn’t feel anyone dropped the ball during the original case.
“Could anybody conceive that somebody is going to beat a 10-year-old girl to the point where he falsely has her accuse somebody of committing his crime that he had done to her? It’s almost hard to fathom that somebody’s capable of doing that, but that’s what we all believe he did,” Forsyth said.
Carter, who has since been released from prison, has maintained his innocence for some 23 years. Now, Forsyth wrote in the release, the prosecutor’s office has filed a motion to vacate his 1992 conviction.
In his Wednesday release, Forsyth took responsibility for pursuing the case against Carter in the early 1990s.
“While Marshall’s actions were abhorrent and nearly impossible to comprehend, he is not the only person responsible for what happened to Mr. Carter,” Forsyth wrote in part. “In the last analysis, it was my office that charged Mr. Carter and it was my office that sought and obtained the conviction that led to his imprisonment.”
“This is every prosecutor’s nightmare,” Forsyth told 24 Hour News 8. “It would have been nice to walk out of this office someday to say I never had this happen on this watch, but it did,” Forsyth said.
Forsyth wrote in the release that he has “personally met with and apologized to Mr. Carter.”
“During our meeting, I also told him that we are attempting to vacate his conviction and explained to him the steps involved in that process,” Forsyth wrote in part. “I fully recognize, however, that neither my apology nor the setting aside of his conviction can begin to adequately compensate Mr. Carter for what he has lost. Tragically, there is nothing that can be done to restore his youth or return to him the years he spent in prison.”
Carter is still on the state sex offender registry. That won’t change until a judge rules to set aside his conviction.
“There is nothing I can do to give him back his 17 years that he spent in prison,” Forsyth told 24 Hour News 8. “Nothing.”
**Correction: An earlier version of this story stated the sexual assault happened in 1992. The assault appears to have happened in 1991, and Carter was convicted in February 1992.