It was a warm August morning in Somerville, Texas when Texas’ elite investigative unit, the Texas Rangers, were alerted to a raging house fire. Once the fire was doused, the investigators entered the collapsed structure stepping over burning embers that sizzled in the hot sun.
What they saw shocked them to their core. Six burned bodies were located throughout the remaining charcoal shell. There were four children under eight-years old and two adults. Once victim had been shot, several were bludgeoned, and all suffered stab wounds, before the home was set ablaze.
At the funeral for the six victims, Robert Carter, the father of one of the deceased children, startled investigators who observed burns on his arms and face that were wrapped in swaths of cloth bandages. Immediately he became a key suspect and after he failed a polygraph test he admitted his involvement and implicated Anthony Graves and a man he knew only as “Red” The Rangers quickly ascertained that Red was actually his wife, Theresa, who also displayed burns that she dismissed as arising from a slip of her curling iron.
Carter was tried for the heinous crimes in 1994, found guilty, and sentenced to death. He now wanted to do a deal with the prosecutor to avoid the death sentence, in exchange for his testimony against Anthony Graves. He continued to insist that Red and Anthony Graves took part in the crimes, and maintained that his wife was not a participant.
As Anthony Graves’ trial approached, settlement discussions accelerated and Texas prosecutor, Charles Sebesta, who had secured Carter’s conviction, met with Mr. Carter and his lawyer the day before Mr. Carter was expected to testify.
During that conversation Carter blurted out that he alone was responsible for the events that resulted in six deaths. Prosecutor Sebesta didn’t believe him and told him to stop playing games. He told him that three weapons, a gun, a knife and a blunt object caused the deaths and that meant there were three assailants.
Carter then explained how the murders occurred, saying that he went to the Davies’ home to speak with Lisa Davies, the mother of his 4-year old son, Jason Davies, to dissuade her from pressing him for child support, and to advise her that despite her entreaties, he would not leave his wife Theresa to get back together with her.
When he arrived at the house Lisa was not there, but her mother, Bobbie Davies was. A heated discussion ensued and Carter left the home, angry and offended. He went back to his car where Red and Anthony Graves waited for him. He explained how he felt disrespected whereupon they said they would “take care of things”.
Although there was no evidence linking Anthony Graves to the crimes, except Carter’s testimony, and despite the alibi provided by Graves’ girlfriend and brother, he was convicted and sent to Death Row. He spent 18 years there, much of it in solitary confinement, and came very close to a lethal injection needle on two occasions. Robert Carter was executed in 2000.
Grave’s “angel” was the University of St. Thomas Project Innocent Network and journalist Nicole Casarez, who championed his wrongful conviction and reinstated her law license to join the legal team that obtained his exoneration.
But that’s not the end of the story. All eyes now focused on prosecutor, Charles Sebesta, when the question arose as to whether he informed the court or Anthony Graves’ lawyer of Carter recanting his allegation that Graves acted with him.
With the media heat on him, Sebesta took out newspaper ads describing Graves as “cold-blooded,” in response to media criticism, and he asked those wondering what occurred to look at the evidence, pointing out that Graves was initially convicted after a jury trial.
He also provides a long explanation of the circumstances of Grave’s wrongful conviction on his website, http://www.charlessebesta.net, insisting he did nothing wrong. However, not everyone sees it his way, and this week Mr. Sebesta was disbarred by a State Bar of Texas grievance committee panel who found that Sebesta failed to provide exculpatory evidence to the defense and presented false testimony to win the conviction of Anthony Graves.
After battling the state for compensation for his wrongful conviction, Anthony Graves received $1.4 million dollars. He splurged on a white BMW for himself and bought a house for his mother. However, the main beneficiaries of his largesse is the University of Texas Law School Foundation where he endowed a scholarship in journalist/lawyer Nicole Casarez’ name and funded a foundation that helps the children of wrongly convicted parents.
I doubt if Charles Sebesta will ever admit he stole 18 years of an innocent man’s life.
Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang