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Beverly Carter: She Was ‘an Angel on Earth’

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The day Beverly Carter disappeared after meeting a supposed prospective buyer at a vacant home in rural Scott, Ark., will be remembered by REALTORS® around the nation as a horrible one — a day when the real estate industry lost a star in its constellation.

But Susan Vaught chooses to remember what was good about that day — a day full of joy for Carter, 49, who was expecting to have one of her grandchildren visit for the weekend. It was around 3:30 p.m. Thursday, just hours before Carter’s fateful showing, when she and Vaught, whose offices were side-by-side at brokerage Crye-Leike’s North Little Rock branch, were talking about family.

Get the resources you need to stay safe on the job at REALTOR.org.

“She was talking about how excited she was,” recalls Vaught, executive broker of Carter’s Crye-Leike office. “Her grandchildren were the highlight of her life. … It was a happy day. [Carter] had won $100 at an open house raffle — it was just a good day.”

Later that evening, Carter went missing and didn’t show for two other appointments she had scheduled. A massive search involving hundreds of volunteers ensued for four days, only to end in tragedy Tuesday morning when Carter’s body was found in a shallow grave in a rural area outside Little Rock. Arron Lewis, 33, a suspect in Carter’s death, reportedly admitted to police that he kidnapped Carter from the home she was showing him on Thursday. However, he did not admit to killing her and pleaded not guilty to capital murder charges in court. He told reporters that Carter was targeted because she was a “rich broker” and a “woman who worked alone.” If he is found guilty in Carter’s death, Lewis faces the death penalty.

“We have a very empty feeling in our hearts,” Vaught says of Carter’s colleagues, friends, and family. “We carry with us her memory, her love, everything she was to us.”

A Love for Real Estate

Vaught remembers Carter as one of the most highly skilled real estate professionals she had ever known. Carter came to the business 10 years ago, delving into it as a means to move on from the death of one of her three sons, who was killed in a car accident one year prior.

“Real estate was the avenue for her to get busy,” Vaught says. “But her faith as a Christian woman was her rock.”

Carter quickly became a top producer in her office, Vaught adds, calling her “the epitome of a REALTOR®.”

“She was very caring and very, very professional in dealing with every client, every colleague, every affiliate,” Vaught says. “This is a job that she loved — it wasn’t work to her. When she got to know a client, they really knew her. It was a lasting relationship that carried on for years. It was forever.”

She became very successful in real estate and was known as “the one to beat” in the office, Vaught says. “We all idolized her. Her secret was that warm, friendly person that she was.”

Despite the circumstances surrounding the end of her life, Carter took the safety of agents seriously, Vaught says. She remembers a sales meeting years ago where Carter told everyone, “Never, ever, ever get in a prospective client’s vehicle.”

“Safety is the No. 1 thing in our office, and we are always looking out for each other,” Vaught says. “Whatever happened to [Carter], it wasn’t because she wasn’t being careful.”

‘A Smile for Everyone’

John Cohen, a former neighbor of Carter’s, knew her for 24 years, and she was the first to welcome him to the neighborhood when he moved to the small town of Sardis, Ark. (Carter’s family has since moved.) He remembers parties in their front yard where they would talk about their children.

“Beverly was an angel on earth,” Cohen says. “She always had kind words for everybody and a smile for everyone. … The only way we’ve been able to cope with this is to know that she’s not in any pain anymore and she’s with her son now.

“The way that she treated her children — those boys grew up to be great young men,” Cohen continues. “She was always doting on those boys.”

Though Cohen says he didn’t know much about her professional life, he says that it was clear her personality was the key to her success in real estate.

“You automatically wanted to trust her, and you knew she wanted to do the best for you,” Cohen says. He adds that he never knew Carter to be weary or afraid of any circumstances she faced in the field. “I never knew her to be scared of anything. She trusted everybody. I guess she never really thought there was evil in people.”

Death Not in Vain

Carter’s death has sparked a nationwide debate among real estate professionals about how to be safer on the job. Several commenters on a REALTOR® Magazine story about Carter relayed concerns about current practices and even told of their own personal cautionary tales.

“After reading this news, I understand what happened to me at an open house this past Saturday,” writes Maribell Cruz, an agent with Watson Realty Corp in Kissimmee, Fla. “I went to the second floor to close the windows and forgot to lock the front door. I hear somebody calling, and when I start going downstairs, I see this guy blocking my pathway at the end of the stairs. I got so scared, and he started saying, ‘Why do you leave your stuff on top of the counter alone with the door open? Do you know that you can be kidnapped? Do you have a firearm with you?’ And then he said, ‘You are lucky. I am just a home inspector who wants to leave you my information.’ He was giving me a lesson.”

The news of Carter’s death prompted Jeff Keehfuss, SRS, broker-owner of Montrose Real Estate Group in Montrose, Colo., to rewrite his firm’s safety procedures.

“When this all happened, I spent my morning updating the policy,” he says. “We had a sort of boilerplate policy that said, you know, be careful, notify someone else about where you’re going — it was pretty standard language that would be in most people’s policies. But after the Beverly Carter case, we realized that we had to be much more specific in the language.”

His new policy instructs all agents to conduct the first in-person meeting with a prospective client in the office, where agents should make copies of the clients’ photo IDs and document the make, model, and license plate numbers of their cars. The policy also directs agents to use their own vehicles when going out on showings and to call the office when arriving and leaving listings using certain safety code phrases. For example, saying “I am having a problem getting in the house” would be the code phrase to indicate to office personnel that they should call authorities.

“We need to be overly cautious to start out,” Keehfuss says. “Everybody’s going to have to change the way they do things. We can all do right by Beverly by playing it safer when we’re on the job.”

Vaught says her and Carter’s local board, the North Pulaski Board of REALTORS®, is drawing up new safety procedures for members in light of Carter’s death. The Arkansas Association of REALTORS® also says on its website that it will be implementing statewide safety procedures in the coming weeks.

“It’s got to be a big, loud voice so that never, ever, ever will Beverly Carter have died in vain,” Vaught says. “We won’t be Pop-Tarts anymore. Practitioners need to do things more from an ‘on-my-schedule’ kind of way, and John Q. Public is just going to have to understand that.

“We want to carry the torch on for Beverly. She was a landmark.”

Graham Wood

Graham Wood is a senior editor for REALTOR® Magazine. He can be reached at gwood@realtors.org.

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Comments
  1. I am so sad about this. I too am in the profession and I will be working differently with my team as far as safety. My heart goes out to friends and family of Beverlys.
    MIDGE RUTTER – Houghton Lake. MICHIGAN

  2. JJ Greive

    I challenge the NAR and WCR to create an app for your smart phone that you can take a picture of your client and their ID. This would be saved to the web so there would be a record of every client and their contact info. You would sell it to clients as a contact management software, but in reality it would be a HUGE deterrent to anyone thinking of doing harm to an agent, I bet when the cell camera comes out the creeps and will go running for the hills.

  3. Cameron Boyd

    I use to practice in Milwaukee and even though I’m a man there were on many occasions when I felt uncomfortable showing properties to people who seemed to be on drugs or had other various “issues.” As a former Realtor our job requires us to live up to a certain “code of ethics”. The problem is that the many of the “laws” enacted to prevent us from “discriminating” among various groups only make it more difficult for us to do our jobs. We are constantly reminded that we must do the right thing. I hope this is a reminded that we are “independent contractors” and we have the right to refuse service but shouldn’t have to always worry about the legalities of what we are doing.

  4. Katie

    I am a Realtor and always bring a friend with me to show to strangers. Simply because I’ve always been scared. There’s a new bracelet brand called ‘cuff’ that has built in gps that’s tracked through your smartphone. Check them out on Facebook.

  5. Debbie

    I also am a licensed realtor in Florida and believe that it should be mandatory nationwide for realtors to meet potential buyers at their office and leave a copy of the client’s drivers license with the office. And a step further, the buyer should be required to be prequalified or have a current proof of funds with a lender before showing them any properties. Somebody with crime on their mind would probably not go to all that trouble. It is also a disservice to sellers to have people who cannot even afford to buy a home into their house. I also do not believe in open houses.

  6. This has been very hard for me to grasp… I too am a seasoned agent of 28 years.. with 8 grandchildren…. my heart aches for her family.. I have always been careful..but that word takes on a different meaning now. Praise God this is only a journey and we have eternity to be together forever. Peace to her family and let’s never forget Beverly Carter. MMM REMAX Associates, Louisville, Ky.

  7. Marilyn

    I have always been cautious but now I am on high alert. This should not have happened. This beautiful, successful lady was just doing her job. This is devastating.

    I will no longer worry about insulting a client. My going home every night is more important. Show me your ID and let me copy it. If you will not come to my office then find another agent.

    I challenge all states to enact agent safety training in their contuing education requirement.Broker’s should run safety classes.

  8. I had to hand over my driver’s license to test drive a 10 year old used car! This needs to be expected of the public for viewing property.
    Realtor.com is airing commercials of people talking about how helpful their Realtor was in their home purchase. Maybe they can add more to these commercials showing people meeting at the office. People need to see and hear that meeting for a consultation first is common practice.

  9. whitney delcourt

    I am an agent an am heart broken over Beverly. I have already changed how I show property. I am working with another agent when I do not know the people. I do not mind splitting the commission in order to stay safe. My sister was murdered so I know what Beverly’s family is and will be going through. Not only are the going through the grief but months from now they will be going through a trial that will open the wounds again. I only hope that they can take comfort in knowing that agents are going to be more careful. I call on NAR, our states associations, local boards and brokers to make changes and to educate agents on being safe. Agents work hard for their clients. Rest in Peace Beverly…your life has taught us to cherish each moment and I pray for your family.

  10. Since we must treat all clients equally (Fair Housing laws), we must vet EVERY client – whether they’re a stranger or a relative. Developing a vetting process that doesn’t violate Fair Housing laws could be a challenge, however. If a voter isn’t required to present ID before voting, how can our industry require ID before showing homes? Is it “profiling” or “discriminating” to not show property to buyers that make us feel nervous, don’t have pre-approval letters, or want to see only vacant rural properties? No easy answer to this dilemma!

  11. I am so sad for this family. I am a Realtor too. We have to develop a mandatory course about safety for all agents and review it often like the code of ethics.

  12. Just required ALL of our agents to install “find Friends” App on iPhones so we can locate them with GPS if we need> Check it out, free app btw.

  13. Broker's Spouse

    Bradenton Broker, the “Find My Friends” app immediately entered my mind as well, and many in our group of agent/broker friends have used it since its introduction to make sure their spouse (and other agents) are safe. Since we’re in another part of Arkansas, this is now on our minds more than ever.

    However, I would caution you that there are a couple of caveats: First, depending on your state’s laws, unless you’re providing the phone you may be violating your agents’ privacy rights by requiring to download anything on their phone, much less mandate that they provide you (or others you designate, including their spouses) with their location. Second, a criminal could easily force the victim to leave the phone at the property that is being shown, rendering the app useless.

    Bottom line is that GPS tracking isn’t the perfect answer to the problem. It’s going to take multiple safety measures to mitigate risk, including the pre-screening of clients at the office, going to showings with another agent, AND technology solutions to provide a complete solution. I think your intentions are honorable and to be applauded, and simply want yo warn you of your solution’s possible legal implications and pitfalls.

  14. John

    There are certain areas around here where I won’t go without my pistol. I’ve have a gun permit to carry concealed for the last 30 year and my background in martial arts training goes back 34 years. How we react to any attack is all about preparation. Many years ago a fellow I roomed with was always accomplishing something and when I said “wow, you’re really lucky” he replied with these words that I live by to this day…Luck is where preparation meets opportunity. Yes, I’ve been in some close scrapes over the years but I was mentally and physically always prepared for them. As for Real Estate sales people, most of you live pretty normal lives and don’t train for those moments so I’ll give you a simple three step “rule of thumb” for a potential assault situation…”Can’t see, can’t fight (fingernails in the eyes); can’t stand, can’t fight (stomp on foot, hard kick to knee, major league kick to groin); can’t breath, can’t fight (a crushing strike to the throat). If you feel you can’t do this for fear of hurting the other guy just remember…better to be judged by 12 than carried by 6.

  15. Colleen

    This is why we must do everything in our power to protect the 2nd amendment. Every agent should carry a firearm and be proficient in it’s use! So after you get copies of their drivers license and write down their tag number and have secret codes left for all the people that aren’t with you, face to face with the person that intends to harm you, you can exercise your God given right to defend yourself.

  16. Marilyn Kennedy

    As a buyer’s agent in the business for nearly 20 years, I’ve always been frustrated with the safety aspect of running out to show a home to someone I’ve never met and who may or may not have the capability to purchase. I’m sure this antiquated way of selling houses worked, just as open houses once did, however, the world grows more dangerous every day while our profession continues to operate like we live in the 1950′s.

    I’ve not stopped thinking about Beverly Carter since her ill fated showing and am truly upset that since her death business continues as usual in my area. I just keep thinking a huge opportunity has been missed to use her case as an example of why things must change in our industry. Buyer’s should have to come in for a buyer’s consultation so that we can explain our services, give them direction and make sure they understand you preapprove or provide proof of funds, before viewing homes. If this kind of system was mandatory in every office, Beverly would most likely be alive today and we could be done wasting countless hours driving to show a home only to find the “buyer” can’t perform. I think it’s time for public service announcements letting buyer’s know the first step if one wants to view homes is a sit down consult with a realtor . This should be a mandatory and nationally accepted practice.

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