Enfield, N.C. — Public records show a Halifax County man profited from multiple deaths and suspicious fires across several North Carolina counties in the past eight years. The victims' families say his connection to those events is no coincidence.
The murder cases happened years and miles apart. In 2005, a 38-year-old Warren County mother and her young son were shot to death. In 2012, a 29-year-old woman in Northampton County was also shot to death.
Dennis Carter, of Enfield, profited financially from the women's life insurance policy and will, despite being a married man and unrelated to the victims.
A private investigator working for one of the victim’s families found that Carter, a home builder, was also linked to a series of suspicious fires and insurance claims.
Family: ‘Ain’t no way in the world that boy is gonna shoot his mama’
Family members found Glinda Pulley and her 10-year-old son Tyler Jones shot to death in her bedroom, at 372 Hamlet Road near Hollister, on April 16, 2005. The State Bureau of Investigation deemed it a murder-suicide, saying the boy killed his mother and then himself.
Family members say they don’t believe the SBI’s conclusion and want another investigation.
“Ain't no way in the world that boy is gonna shoot his mama,” said Michael Pulley, Glinda Pulley’s brother.
“He cherished the ground she walked on, and he was afraid of guns,” said Louise Pulley, Glinda Pulley’s mother.
Already stunned by the killings, family members said they were shocked to learn Glinda Pulley had $750,000 in life insurance policies and named her then-boyfriend's mother as the beneficiary. That boyfriend was Carter.
“At first, I got mad. Kind of like, what the …? You know what I'm saying? What's wrong with my sister?” Michael Pulley said.
Search warrants show Warren County deputies also had questions about Carter. Authorities discovered that he had complete control over his mother's finances and that he told Glinda Pulley to put his mother's name on an auto insurance policy because he was married.
Glinda Pulley faxed notes to the insurance companies, Farm Bureau and Nationwide, in the month leading up to her death, asking that Carter's mother not be made aware that she was the beneficiary of the life insurance policies. A Warren County detective wrote in a warrant that he believes Carter crafted the letters for Glinda Pulley.
Also, according to the warrants, Carter told Glinda Pulley’s son, Tyler, to get shotgun shells from a cousin's house two days earlier so they could hunt squirrels. The autopsies showed both Tyler and his mother died from shotgun blasts.
Investigators said Carter later posed as Glinda Pulley's fiancé to get her death certificate.
With the SBI's ruling of murder-suicide, Warren County prosecutors closed the case. However, Warren County Sheriff Johnny Williams told WRAL Investigates and the family that the case is still open.
“(The sheriff) told me over and over again, ‘That boy didn’t do it,’” Louise Pulley said.
On Aug. 15, 2006, Daniel Jones Sr. – Tyler's father and Glinda Pulley's ex-husband – wrote to state Attorney General Roy Cooper about the case.
"I maintain my son's innocence in the case," Daniel Jones Sr. wrote. "I am convinced that Glinda's boyfriend of 10 years is responsible for their deaths and that insurance money is the reason. There are too many facts surrounding her boyfriend’s actions leading up to and after their deaths to dismiss as coincidences."
SBI officials declined to be interviewed for the story but released a statement saying they "provided limited assistance in the case" and that it was being handled by the Warren County Sheriff's Office.
"The SBI reached out to the Warren County sheriff in 2010 to inquire if there was any new information that had been developed concerning this case and was told there was no new information. If new information is developed and the SBI is requested to assist by the sheriff or district attorney, the SBI will pursue that information," the agency said in a statement.
Boyfriend: ‘It’s too much information leading to this man’
Seven years later and about 30 miles away, new mother Crystal Bell was found shot to death on June 24, 2012, on the back deck of an abandoned home in the 1200 block of Macon Price Road in Garysburg. Firefighters found her while responding to reports of a fire. Bell's car had been set on fire.
Brenda Bell helped investigators identify her daughter's body.
“When (the officer) showed me the picture of my daughter, it wasn't a pretty sight because half of her face was gone,” Brenda Bell recalled, crying.
Family members said they were shocked to learn the 29-year-old had a will. The sole beneficiary was Carter, whom family members described as her close friend.
“It was hard to believe that she left a will to him and not to her mother or her sister or her child,” Brenda Bell said.
Also not named in the will was Shawn Robinson, the father of Crystal Bell’s daughter, Miracle, now 1½ years old. Robinson lived with Crystal Bell and their daughter and was initially a person of interest in her killing.
“I want Miracle to grow up and have an answer for what happened to her mother,” he said. “It's too much information leading to this man.”
Robinson hired Norman Smith, a private investigator, to look for clues.
Smith discovered that Carter had personal relationships with both Glinda Pulley and Crystal Bell and posed as both women's fiancé in the weeks leading up to their deaths. A search warrant says he posed as Glinda Pulley's fiancé. Smith says Carter also represented himself as Crystal Bell's fiancé to a real estate agent while house shopping with her after two fires at her home.
Family members who met Carter described him as “in control” and “a charmer” who “had the whole family torn apart.”
Crystal Bell's murder remains unsolved. The SBI is handling the case with the Northampton County Sheriff's Office and declined to comment on the ongoing investigation.
Private investigator: ‘Law enforcement is not coordinating with each other’
During his private investigation, Smith says he found a series of suspicious fires, insurance claims and a will all linked to Carter, including two fires in an 18-month span at Crystal Bell’s Halifax County home. Both were ruled suspicious.
The family says Crystal Bell collected insurance money on the fires, but they are not sure what happened to the money.
In 2007, a house Carter owned in Edgecombe County burned shortly after he lost a civil suit and was ordered to pay a Wake County couple $165,000 plus interest and attorney's fees. After learning of the judge’s decision, Carter executed a deed of trust, transferring the property to his brother.
A Superior Court judge ruled that the transaction was fraudulent and was executed so the home could not be seized to pay the original civil judgment.
In 2009, a house burned in Pitt County. Carter’s brother owned the property, but Carter was listed as an “involved” party on the home’s insurance policy. Insurance records show State Farm rejected that claim based on suspicion of fraud.
In February 2013, a security camera caught the glow of flames from a house fire in Northampton County. Tax records also show the house is owned by Carter's relatives.
Within the past year, friends of Carter reported two fires at their Pitt County home. After the second fire, authorities accused Carter of forging the homeowner's signature on building permits so he could do the costly repairs. He was arrested on felony larceny and forgery charges and is scheduled to appear in court on those charges in June.
“(A fire) might happen to you once in your lifetime, but two, three, four, on and on?” Smith said. “Who gains monetarily from these incidents? … It goes back and points in one direction.”
The WRAL Investigates team tried repeatedly to contact Carter by visiting his Halifax County home multiple times, sending him a letter and calling phone numbers linked to him. On Thursday, WRAL Investigates received a letter from Carter's attorney, Mark Osterhout, saying, "Neither he nor I have any comment."
Smith says he plans to keep investigating the case.
“I feel like law enforcement is not coordinating with each other,” he said. ”I have full confidence in the SBI, but this has not come across the right desk yet.”
Map of the deaths, fires
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