In this episode we go back in time to 1980's Kellyville, Oklahoma where April grew up. Then we follow her to the car lot where she met Terry. We will hear the tape that April recorded of a fight between she and Terry after their trip to Italy. On the trip he beat her threatened to and throw her out of their hotel room naked, only to be caught by one of his fellow travelers on the trip. We are trying to categorize the time and place of April and Terry's relationship, and look for patterns of abuse, which escalated as law enforcement continued to turn a blind eye.
- For pictures of April as a kid, her wedding, the early years with Hunter, and pictures introduced at trial of April and Terry's international trips, visit okappleseed.org/episode-2-show-notes
LA Times article about Don Carlton's bribery scandal: https://web.archive.org/web/20211117194929/https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1994-03-16-fi-34784-story.html%C2%A0
TIME Magazine story on Honda scams: http://content.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,3976,00.html
- Instagram post containing the Affidavit of Federal Judge Claire Egan: https://www.instagram.com/p/CQWQJrUDy-m/
Detailed Timeline of Events in April's Case: https://aprilwilkensblog.wordpress.com/2022/02/12/timeline-of-events/
Sign the Change.org petition to support April's release: https://www.change.org/p/oklahoma-pardon-parole-board-commute-the-life-sentence-of-abuse-survivor-april-wilkens?signed=true
Donate to keep our work going!: neappleseed.org/okappleseed
Learn more about Oklahoma Appleseed: okappleseed.org
- If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic abuse, use a safe computer and contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at www.thehotline.org or call 1-800-799-7233. You can also search for a local domestic violence shelter at www.domesticshelters.org/.
- If you have experienced sexual assault and need support, visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) at www.rainn.org or call 1-800-656-HOPE.
- Have questions about consent? Take a look at this guide from RAINN at www.rainn.org/articles/what-is-consent.
- Learn more about criminalized survival at www.survivedandpunishedny.org/.
- Learn more about the Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act at www.nysda.org/page/DVSJA.
- Follow the #freeaprilwilkens campaign on Instagram at @freeaprilwilkens, on Twitter and on their webpage at https://aprilwilkensblog.wordpress.com/.
Colleen McCarty is one of the hosts, executive director of Oklahoma Appleseed, and producer. Leslie Briggs is the other host who is a civil rights and immigration attorney, and producer. Rusty Rowe provides additional production support. We're recorded at Bison and Bean Studios in Tulsa. Additional support from Amanda Ross and Ashlyn Faulkner. Our theme music is Velvet Rope by Gyom.
Panic Button is created in partnership with Oklahoma Appleseed Center for Law and Justice and Leslie Briggs. Follow OK Appleseed on Twitter and Instagram at @ok_appleseed.
If you want to continue the conversation with other listeners, please join our Panic Button podcast community on Bookclubz at bit.ly/3NRHO8C.
Leslie Briggs 00:00
Glenda McCarley had tried to get the badge number of Officer Aaron Tallman just a few months before the shooting of Terry Carlton. She said his response to April Wilkens, her neighbor across the street on Quincy, was, quote, "infuriating." Glenda had seen numerous times Terry stalking around April's house in the late winter of 1997 and early spring of 1998. She said quote, "it was almost a joke, I think, among the neighbors, how he had the timing down so that he could always just leave and two seconds later, they'd round the corner." The he that the neighbors joked about was of course the decedent in this case, Terry Carlton. Regardless, when Officer Tallman arrived to find April sitting on Glenda's porch in the spring of 1998, waiting for help from yet another violent encounter, he walked up to the porch, looked at April and said, "You're beginning to annoy me." This is Panic Button. I'm Leslie Briggs.
Colleen McCarty 01:05
And I'm Colleen McCarty.
Leslie Briggs 01:06
And this is episode 2: Small Town Girl Living in a Violent World.
Colleen McCarty 01:14
Many years before Glenda McCarley asked for Officer Tallman's badge number, April was just a kid from Kellyville, Oklahoma, a small town southwest of Tulsa on the I-44 Turnpike. The town had a population of 960 in 1980 when April was 10. Kellyville is on old route 66. Local landmarks include a cotton gin and oil derricks dotting the town's main street. The cotton gin has since been demolished. Local high schoolers would go out to Cry Baby Bridge, which was ironically rumored to be haunted by the ghosts of a woman who was fleeing her abusive husband and her baby. The two wrecked and the baby's body was never recovered. So the legend goes, you can hear the baby crying from the bridge late at night. April was an average teenager in Kellyville. Her parents worked at a local orthotics and prosthetics clinic. Her father, Rex, was an amputee himself and had learned the business due to necessity. April was a cheerleader. But even though everything looked perfect from the outside, like most Oklahoma homes during this period, there was strong discipline. And like any family, some dysfunction.
April Wilkens 02:26
My upbringing made me susceptible. And I know my parents just did what they knew. They grew up in abusive childhoods. So I know, my dad, he had a tough upbringing. You know, his dad - his dad used to beat his family. And, you know, he was a preacher and my dad felt that was very hypocritical. And, you know, my mom, dad leaving the family. And she grew up being abused. That influences children. And I want to honor their memory. Because even though, yes, there was violence and abuse, I know that they did what they knew. That's how it is. And my sister, she's always - she wanted to write a letter talking about the abuse and all of that. And my mom got mad, and then she didn't put it in there. But she's always encouraged me to talk about it. So, I'm really talking about it for the first time.
Terry Carlton 03:23
April and Mary are actually half sisters. They share the same mom and Mary spent a little bit of time talking with us about her mother's history of domestic abuse with her biological father. And then of course with Mary stepfather April's biological father, Rex. April and Mary's mother often played out these cycles of abuse that we see repeating themselves in April's relationship with Terry. She would leave and return and leave and return and get hooked in with an abusive partner until it got to be unbearable, and she would flee. Mary gave us a little glimpse into what it was like growing up with both her biological father and then with April and Rex and her mother.
He grabbed us and my grandmother - I did not know my grandmother called him at work. He worked right down from the house, and she called him. My mother was trying to leave with us. We lived with them. And he threw us in the bathroom. And he had a gun and he said he would shoot us before he'd let her have us. He didn't want us. I know that, you know, as an adult. He just thought she would stay if he did that.
Leslie Briggs 04:29
Eventually, Mary's mother left for good leaving her and her little brother behind with their biological father, who was an alcoholic, extremely physically and emotionally abusive. Mary didn't see her mom for about two years. When she did, she learned she had a little sister. April.
She was two, actually, when I met her. My mother had left my father again. I didn't even know I had a two-year-old sister. Like me having a live doll.
Leslie Briggs 04:54
Here's how Mary describes the car ride home after meeting her stepfather, Rex, for the first time.
He hit my brother in the mouth on the way to their home, in the car. They just showed up to pick us up. We didn't have any warning or anything whatsoever. And it was so cool to see my mom again. You know, I had nothing but good memories of my mother or love for my mother and I was just, like, so excited. Yes, he hit my brother in the mouth. My brother answered my mother. She asked him something and he simply answered her. I don't remember it being snarky or anything when he ?? He said, "Don't talk to your mother that way," turned around and smacked him in the mouth that made his lip - hit his lip up against his teeth, I guess, and because his mouth bled. I never stood up to him. I was too afraid of him. And he made me kind of crazy. And I stood up to him as an adult, but on the way home, I was just like, really, this cannot be happening again. But it was.
Colleen McCarty 05:45
Throughout the trial, April was hesitant to reveal her childhood. She didn't want to shame her parents. Even though her childhood had episodes of violence, there was a lot of happy memories too. She remembered both her parents standing by her throughout the entire trial and supporting her in the years afterwards. Even though her sister wanted to write a letter to the parole board much later detailing the family abuse, April refused.
Leslie Briggs 06:11
There's even a moment on the stand when the district attorney Tim Harris alleges that April was hospitalized for drug abuse when she was 15. April, in her testimony, does not do a good job of refuting this simply because she was balancing the fact that her parents were in the courtroom listening and she didn't want to make them look bad. The truth was, she had stayed out all night with her friends and her mother had dropped her off at St. John's to get a drug test. Her mother could only conclude that April must have used drugs with her friends. There were of course no drugs in her system. But the doctors asked to keep April overnight due to suspicions of anorexia. Here's how Mary remembers April's eating disorder.
No, we all knew something was going on. And I think it was something she could control. Forgive me, but I learned in psychology - now, remember I'm gone and I only come back and visit once in a while and why I can back to visit who knows - but she would go to the strangest phases, bless her heart. She would eat - buy a whole loaf of bread and eat the hearts out of the bread and leave the crust. And then the next week she might just eat the crust and not eat the hearts of the bread. It was just so - the things she would do are so strange, honey. But it was something I think that she could have control over.
Leslie Briggs 07:20
Now of course, April told us that the anorexia was really a function of her home life. Mary shared with us just a small story about how Rex, her stepfather and April's biological father, would speak to them about their eating habits.
I never hardly ever brought friends home. But I brought a friend home one time that down the road who was in an abused home just like I was. Some - we attracked each other you know how that is, I'm sure, somehow. But I went in the kitchen and made us some peanut butter and honey was - we were gonna eat it on crackers. And I made enough for two people because I had a friend there with me. And he came into the kitchen, and I was a pig and I was never going to get married. No man was ever going to look at me. How could I eat that much? And I was skinny - I mean, I was so skinny it was ridiculous. Because I could - I could eat whatever I wanted you know what I mean? And not get - Anyway, I stood there and took it. Went into the bedroom, sat down, ate that. She said, "So this is why you don't ever ask me over?" I said "Uhuh." I just didn't. Why would you? I was humiliated. You can only imagine -
Leslie Briggs 08:25
Ultimately, they diagnosed April as anorexic at 15 and sent her home with little information or treatment resources. But April was always incredibly intelligent. She graduated high school two years early, went on to Oklahoma State University for undergraduate studies, where she majored in clinical dietetics. She later attended an accelerated program in orthotics and prosthetics at Northwestern University in Chicago. She graduated with her Master's in 1991 when she was just 21 years old.
Colleen McCarty 08:55
In 1990, when she was 20, she met Eric Wilkens and got pregnant with Hunter. She was attending her Master's program in Chicago while Eric went to undergrad at the University of Oklahoma. They were married. Eric and April then divorced in 1993 after the long distance relationship had taken a toll. They'd grown apart. And April would later say that she was too young to appreciate a good man like Eric. We talked with Hunter, April's son, recently about the divorce and what he remembers about his mom in those early years.
I was five years old. And you know, it was a clean split up. I think they had joint custody at the time. So I was spending a week at my dad's, a week at my mom's. Completely normal. My mom's house was awesome. I had the entire upstairs to myself. I had a TV hooked up to an N64. I had a computer in the mid 90s, which was awesome. I don't even think there was internet to it. It was just a computer that you could do things with. I think there was sometimes you'd get internet to it or not. I had a Batcave and I red racecar bed, which was super cool. The Batcave had a zipline, where Batman could slide through. Living at my mom's house was really nice. Like, it was really cool that she was - she was - she spoiled me rotten. My dad did not like it at all. The only thing I did not like about my mom's house is that she made me eat healthy and soy stuff.
Colleen McCarty 10:48
Hunter remembers that April was a good mom.
She was a parents. She was good parents. She - she told me to do everything that I needed to do. I did everything she that she told me to do. And she you know she - we had a good time. She she took me out places and I mean we had a good time. It was it was it was great.
Colleen McCarty 11:06
During the early 1990s April was a working single mom with not too much drama in her life. As you can see, April is not the typical criminal defendant in a murder case. She's a woman. She's white, and she's highly educated. This demographic is not typically who you would see sitting behind the defendant's table. By the nature of the system, most defendants are impoverished with a high percentage being people of color. Most defendants have not completed any college, most prosecutors would not want to prosecute someone like April. She is what we would call sympathetic to an extreme degree.
Leslie Briggs 11:44
Which is a whole separate level of fucked up that we're going to get into throughout this podcast, but it's the truth. Interestingly enough, Terry was also growing up in Tulsa, about 20 miles away from Kellyville. In 1989, the year of his first stint in drug rehab, he was 31. And there's a 12-year age difference between Terry and April that doesn't get discussed much but it's certainly an element to issues of power and control and abuse in this relationship. Terry had gone to the University of Oklahoma, and he was described as a good athlete and a talented musician. Terry's father, Don Carlton gained some notoriety, or infamy depending on how you look at it, for offering a Honda executive and briefcase with $250,000 in cash in 1983 in order to secure the rights to his own dealership. Now ultimately, Don Carlton was not prosecuted in that matter, but the man who took the bribe was. And the scandal was profiled and Time Magazine as well as the LA Times and we're going to drop links to those articles in the show notes. So, from 1991 to 1995, April and Terry are just living their lives separately unaware of each other's existence. Also in the late 80s and early 90s, Terry's ex wife Sherry Blanton and another ex-girlfriend, Melinda Wallace, would go on to make police reports about Terry getting abusive with them toward the end of their relationships.
Colleen McCarty 13:01
In September ish of 1995, April goes shopping for a car. She winds up at Don Carlton Acura of Tulsa. This is at about 47th and memorial. She meets with the sales guy and ends up leasing an Acura Integra. On her second or third visit to the dealership, April sees Terry for the first time in passing. We actually spoke to one of the jurors on the case recently who noted it was revealed at trial that Terry actually had a policy in the workplace.
And that is there was one of the salesmen from the car dealership who testified that the guys on the floor were instructed to bring any pretty girls in to visit him if they were single, pretty, looking for a car. And so she was really like in a flytrap.
Colleen McCarty 13:51
He doesn't speak to her. But we can only assume he noticed her because she begins to get phone calls from him on the number she had left with the salesman. Terry calls her, presenting himself as the owner of the dealership. He pretends to be following up about the lease of her vehicle. But April could tell it was more than that, and that he was interested in dating her and she began looking forward to the calls. Quote, "I remember thinking that he was attractive and charming. He seemed real. Beautiful smile, you know? And all it was, was 'This is Terry, this is April. Hello.' And we shook hands. But I remember those were my first impressions of him based on that," end quote. On one of her last visits to the dealership, Terry takes her to lunch to find out if she's interested in him. She was. She wanted to keep seeing him and perhaps go on a date. Later that week, she went over to Terry's house for drinks.
Leslie Briggs 14:44
Their first real date was on a private plane to Dallas to visit Terry's friend Robert Martin. They met up with several friends and stayed at Martin's place in Dallas for the weekend. Terry paid for a limo to drive the group around town to go to some nightclubs and some restaurants. April admitted she'd never went on a date like that before, and it made her feel special. April and Terry fell for each other fast. He acted like a total gentleman during those early months. He took her to Jamaica and then on Christmas Eve of 1995, he proposed. He gave April a $25,000 engagement ring and they set the date to marry in April of 1996, just eight months after meeting for the first time.
Colleen McCarty 15:22
Here's Hunter on his early memories of Terry.
He's the kind of guy that like will buy you whatever you want, you know? But I remember he bought me a little, like, tiny - tiny person guitar, like, for children with an acoustic. It was pretty cool. I didn't know how to play the guitar. But any toy I wanted, he could do that because he had the money. He just would just buy you stuff.
Leslie Briggs 15:48
The couple traveled to Dallas frequently after that Christmas and to the Bahamas. However, April remembers after the engagement that things began to change. She saw big areas of incompatibility with Terry and it was ultimately her decision not to go through with the wedding. April said, quote, "I began to see unpredictable fits of anger. I went from being nothing wrong, and being on a pedestal to where he would become very critical of me and everything I did. Not always, not always just times." To April, she could see the charming, affable person that Terry could be, but also saw that he was battling himself a lot of the time. He was unpredictable, angry for no real reason. And he seemed to be looking for things to get onto her about.
Colleen McCarty 16:37
During this time, April had majority custody of her son, Hunter. His father, Eric, would take him every other weekend, so April would only see Terry during those weekends when Hunter was with his dad. And, she would sometimes see Terry on weeknights, but not as often. The first time Terry hurt April was on her birthday, April 25, 1996. The month their wedding was supposed to have occurred. April remembers they were fighting verbally, but she can't remember what it was about. Then all of a sudden, Terry became enraged and he flew at her with his hands out reaching for her neck. He grabbed her throat and started squeezing. April ran from the house back home to Brookside. By the time she got there, her house one was already ringing. It was Terry. "I can't believe that happened. I'm not like that. It's your birthday. Let's start over." April accepted the apology and saw him again that night.
Leslie Briggs 17:32
The next major incident that April remembers is a harrowing event that happened in Amsterdam. April and Terry were on a two-week vacation, just the two of them, for the first week in Amsterdam, and then the second week in Paris. On the second to last day in Amsterdam, April was sleeping in. Around 10am, Terry began yelling at April to get out of bed. She was not getting up fast enough for Terry. She said she began crying and saying that she couldn't do anything right. Terry had been very critical during the time that they were traveling and he was on edge. He came around to her side of the bed and he hit her with his baseball cap. And she was stunned. He pushed her down on the bed and they began having sex with her very roughly. I think it's important to talk about this incident in terms of how sexual assault was viewed in the 90s. When April testifies at trial, she speaks in terms of "I didn't say yes, but I didn't say no. I was crying the whole time. And it hurt." Terry kept going for almost five minutes until he finished, then he slammed around the hotel room and left. The rest of the trip was uneventful, but April was an emotional wreck. It was the first time anyone had ever done anything like that to her.
Colleen McCarty 18:47
April and Terry have gone to an on-again, off-again status during this time. The engagement was on when they went to Rome in November of 1996. But there was no wedding date set. April kept thinking Terry would get better, that he would be the charming man she'd met just a year prior. Terry frequently got invited on trips with Tulsa-area media because of the amount of money the dealerships spent on marketing - both print and TV news. The Rome trip was one of those. They went with what was then called Great Empire broadcasting, or KVOO. Terry asked April to accompany him to Rome, and their hotel overlooked the Vatican. There hadn't been any violent incidents with Terry since the early summer, and April felt that the worst of their relationship was behind them. They traveled to Rome with Terry's parents and a few other community business owners. One of them, a car dealer from Wichita named Steve Hatchet. Once they got there, April realized that Terry had brought cocaine. Up until this period, April did not know that Terry did hard drugs. On one of the first days in Rome, Terry convinced April to try cocaine with him. She tried it and had a bad reaction. That night in the hotel room, Terry was trying to sleep. April could not sleep, due to her reaction to the drugs. They had just gotten back from a day trip to Sorento, and everyone had been drinking heavily. She just couldn't sleep. She wanted to call her son, Hunter. Terry was awoken by April on the phone and he flew into a rage. Terry told April that everyone on the trip saw how she was, that his parents thought she was rude and unbecoming. He made sure she knew everyone noticed that she didn't belong there. Terry hated that April had talked to a college friend who was on the trip about things they had in common. In fact, that friend was Michelle Hardesty. Miss Hardesty now runs the Hardesty Family Foundation in Tulsa, which focuses on efforts to provide addiction treatment. She's a major funder of 12&12, where April would later escape in 1998.
Leslie Briggs 20:54
The thing is, Terry had felt excluded. And he was in a rage. Terry attacked April on the bed saying "All right, bitch, this is Italy. They don't look at wife beating the same way they do in America. I can do whatever I want to you over here." He began pouncing on her, putting his elbow in her eye socket and punching her in the sides. He twisted her arms behind her and that's when someone began pounding on the hotel room door. It was Steve Hatchet, one of the other people on the trip. April got up and ran to lock herself in the bathroom. She could hear Steve say "Terry, I know all about you. Come out and fight someone your own size." After this incident, April stayed in their room, and Terry went to stay in his father's room. They didn't see much of each other for the rest of the trip. Steve Hatchet would later testify at trial that quote, "I put my arm in between the door so he couldn't close it. He was very, very emotional. I was mad at him and he was mad at me." Hatchet told the court he could hear the sounds of someone being hit from the room next door. When April got back to the US, she attempted to file a protective order against Terry using the police report she made in Rome. She hired then-attorney Claire Egan. At this time, Claire Egan was an attorney at a major firm here in Tulsa called Hall Estill. But in the early 2000s, Claire Egan would be appointed as a federal magistrate judge. And now today, Judge Egan is a United States District Court judge for the Northern District of Oklahoma. You can see Egan's affidavit of her representation of April in the show notes, as well as what she felt went wrong at trial April calls Terry as soon as they returned from Italy. She records this phone call. Here is that recording.
April Wilkens 22:11
But I don't understand what drives you to the point where, like you said, you want to strangle live and shit out of me.
Terry Carlton 22:18
Well, if you're intereted I'll tell yah. When you do things that you know will piss me off, you do them on purpose. You know, to me, that's provoking somebody. You know, I took you to Europe, you know? I was in bed. We had an argument and I did the right thing. I got up and I left and I removed myself from it.
April Wilkens 23:04
But you hit me as you went -
Terry Carlton 23:06
Oh that was an accident I did not mean to -
April Wilkens 23:08
You didn't mean to flilp me with your napkin and shove and push me aside
Terry Carlton 23:13
Just tryin' to leave... So, you know, then, I'm in bed. So what do you do? Instead of trying to make the situation better by just going to bed, you know? You deliberately aggravate the situation becuase you do something that you know is going to really piss me off. And that is a wake me up call - calling Hunter and talking to Hunter knowing that you're going to keep me up when all I want to do is go to bed, April.
April Wilkens 23:47
Do you not see how maybe it's a little drastic to pounce on someone and choke them and throw them out on their ass - threaten to throw them out on their ass naked? You know? I mean, does that not seem a little drastic and - and -
Terry Carlton 24:01
Yes, you're right it is drastic and I admitted it.
April Wilkens 24:06
I just don't understand the need for physical violence.
Terry Carlton 24:09
I see. So it's okay for you to do - to pull out the stops, and do everything that you can do to piss me off but, you know, as soon as I, you know, react in the same way and pull out the stops and do the things that I can do to hurt you, what's the difference, April? You know, what's the difference? You're fucking with me, I'm fucking with you. You understand? You know, that's the big fucking lie that if, you know, it's okay to do whatever the fuck you want to but it's not okay for me to do whatever I feel like doing. I lose my temper - you lose your temper. You're mad at me. So you fuck with me. You bust my balls and you try to egg - egg - egg on the fight aggravate me. And play some good ol' head games. But, then, whenever I, just, you know, I lose my temper and I go to throw you outside the room naked - Oh that's when you started resisting but... Is one any better than the other? I mean, seems like you think it's okay to do those things. I mean, that's what you're telling me, "Oh well I suppose we all fuck with each other every once in a while but -
April Wilkens 25:16
and choke me
Terry Carlton 25:41
you broke the rule, you went over the - you stepped over the line. You got physical, and you're gonna have to do something" - I'm not, I'm not satified with this. Because what you're gonna do is go to a victim's group, okay, and you're all gonna sit there and tell each other how it's not your fault that this happened to you to pat each other on the back and feel sorry for each other and, you know, it's gonna be what a bastard I am. Okay? You're not gonna be any working on your own problem. If I didn't do the violence - if the violence thing, you know, was not even a factor - you would still do those things because that's your way of controlling.
April Wilkens 26:19
I mean, I don't remember hearing "April, I raped you. I know that must have really upset you and I'm sorry." Or "April, I know that I, you know, slammed you against the ground and I know that must have been really dramatic for you and I'm sorry."
Terry Carlton 26:35
I've said those things. I've said those things. You just want toto hear them over and over again... I'll apologize once but I'm not going to sit there and just have to apologize every fucking day in my life. You either accept the apology or you don't. Sounds to me like you don't.
April Wilkens 26:53
Do you think the alcohol or the drugs or anything like that have anything to do with it?
Terry Carlton 27:03
Well I'm sure that, I mean, yeah, it has something to do with it. But I don't remember taking any drugs so I don't know. But the alcohol is an inhibitor so it makes you do things that you normally wouldn't do, without seducing [inaudible]. But mainly the thing is the inhibitors allow myself - I don't know, it's a complicated thing but I think mainly these things build up. They build up, these things build up inside. You know what I'm saying? It just builds and builds till it's explosive.
April Wilkens 27:38
Yeah. But when you said, you know, "Hey, this is Europe and I can do what I want to here," I just thought that was kinda scary, like, premeditated or something.
Terry Carlton 27:51
Yeah. [Inaudible] It was just meant to scare you...So dramatic, you know, I just get the feeling that all this is on me and that I'm just this horrible fucking mutant that. You don't think about my feelings. Like today and tonight you haven't thought about my feelings. What about - I wasn't ready to talk about this, huh? What about my feelings? My feelings count for nothing with you and until they do all this just bullshit. So, goodbye.
Leslie Briggs 28:36
For reasons we still don't understand that tape never made it into the trial. The jury never got to hear it.
Colleen McCarty 28:42
During this time after they returned, Terry begins to tell April that he's suffering from severe depression and that he's suicidal. In retrospect, it looks like this was a way to keep April from going through with the protective order. April takes him to her doctor, Dr. Teter, for treatment. April is a helper. She wants to heal people. It was her chosen profession. When Terry begins to seem sick and needy, she is triggered to come take care of him. This occurs during December of 1996. We can see a pattern forming but we can also see some escalation. The pattern is very typical of domestic violence relationships. There's a honeymoon period, then an abuse incident. And then apologies and neediness. The extraordinary thing about April and Terry's relationship is how documented and witnessed it is. In most cases like this. There's no evidence to support the abuse because it was so covert. However, that is not the case with this couple.
Terry Carlton 28:42
So let's jump now to Valentine's Day of 1997. Terry calls April to tell her that he has a Valentine's gift for her and at this time, they're still in an on-again, off-again phase. She stops by Terry's house with Hunter, her son, to grab the gift. The couple had been trying to work things out after Terry was getting treatment from Dr. Teter. April goes upstairs and she can tell that Terry is on the phone with his ex girlfriend Melinda Wallace. April had told Terry previously that she thinks it's rude and inconsiderate to have Melinda call him while April's at his house. She's upset about this and she turns to leave. She hears Terry drop the phone and come after her. She turns around and throws the water in her hand in his face. This whole time, they're on the second floor and Hunter is downstairs. He's about six, maybe seven, at the time. Terry charges at April, grabs her, pins her to the bedroom floor by the shoulders. She was twisting to get away and screaming and she could hear Hunter coming up the stairs towards them. April remembers being shocked by Terry's strength because he had recently been diagnosed with Guillain-Barré Syndrome, getting treatment from Dr. Tedder for this condition. Terry is spewing vile threats at April and berating her. However, when Terry hears Hunter coming up the stairs he stops and he gets up. April calls 911 from Terry's house to report the incident. And, as she's about to leave the house, the police arrive.
Colleen McCarty 31:04
The summer of 1997 is chaotic. April and Terry are on and off. She learns that Terry is taking IV drugs, mostly methamphetamine. He has his housekeeper bring the drugs and leave them in a bedroom drawer where he would leave the cash. April remembers that he would sometimes spend $2,000 a day on drugs. And that's in 1998 dollars, as Lesley likes to say.
Leslie Briggs 31:29
Ddjusted for inflation, that's about $3,500 today.
Colleen McCarty 31:32
At this point, April gives Terry an ultimatum. It's the drugs or me. Unequivocally, Terry chooses the drugs. April's devastated, heartbroken. She cannot psychologically understand how someone could choose a drug that hurts them and ruins their life over someone that loves them. No one would believe April that Terry was using again. So several times during the summer, April steals syringes from Terry's house to show his parents or the police. She was trying to get him some help or stage some kind of intervention. These efforts go absolutely nowhere. We haven't talked much about this, but April's been running her business that she inherited from her parents, Schneider orthotics. She's struggling from the trauma and the constant issues with Terry and her business starts to go downhill. She begins to get loans from Terry and ask for his business advice. This is ultimately what pulls her back in to begin spending more time with him.
Leslie Briggs 32:34
So now we're in August of 1997. And April is at one of her lowest points yet. Terry had taken a lot of pictures of April and him having sex and April in various compromising positions, pictures of her body. He was threatening her to release them if she ever left him. This was also in 1998 and, not that releasing nudes or revenge porn is in any way acceptable today, but the concept of nudes and the concept of ownership over your body and having naked pictures of yourself, I think that dynamic is, at least I would argue, starting to change a little bit in society. It's really not the case in 1998. I mean, this would absolutely positively ruin her. Perhaps that's still true today, but it's just different in 1998. You don't have the same sense of I can take this photo, delete this photo, share it with whoever I want. After wondering for so long what Terry found in the drug, she agrees to use methamphetamine with him for the first time. After they used, Terry left the house and April was staying with him. When he comes home, he flies into a rage, yelling in April that she had stolen one of his guitar necks. Terry was a guitar collector and he liked to rebuild vintage guitars. This was a very rare guitar neck that he was screaming at April about having stolen. Now April was actually supposed to leave Terry's house to go pick up Hunter for her weekend with him. Instead, Terry held her in his house at gunpoint all weekend. He told her if she produced the guitar neck, she would just get a beating. But if she didn't produce it, he was going to kill her. Throughout the weekend he raped, her beat her, and continued to just spin out about this guitar neck.
Colleen McCarty 34:11
He told her he wanted to be compensated. So he forced her to write a $7,000 check. That's money she didn't have. Later in the week, his housekeeper finds the guitar neck. Terry ended up allowing April to stop payment on the check and the check was not introduced at trial. The craziest thing about this altercation is that Terry called the police on April for stealing. When the police arrived, she reported to them that he had been holding her hostage with a Glock pistol and had raped her all weekend. The police told her she wasn't making sense and she needed to go home. She said she didn't feel safe at home. And the officers told her that it's not their job to babysit her.
Leslie Briggs 35:12
So this episode has taken us from April's childhood in Kellyville all the way up to August of 1997. To date, Terry had raped and beaten April on several occasions with no formative police action and no consequences. We see Terry's violence escalate and escalate as he's not held accountable again and again. He begins to become obsessed with April. And the thought that he's above the law next week on panic button, we'll talk about the incident that causes Terry to fall over the edge into extreme violence, stalking, compulsive breaking and entering and the incident that precipitates the four months leading up to the shooting.
Colleen McCarty 35:50
Panic Button is a co-production of Oklahoma Appleseed Center for Law injustice and Leslie Briggs. We're your hosts Colleen McCarty.
Leslie Briggs 36:01
and Leslie Briggs.
Colleen McCarty 36:02
Our theme music is velvet rope by GYOM. The production team is Leslie Briggs and Rusty Rowe. We recorded at Bison and Bean Studio in Tulsa. Special thanks to Lynn Worley, Amanda Ross, and Ashlyn Faulkner for their work on this case. If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic abuse, use a safe computer and contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline, at thehotline.org or call 1-800-799-7233. ...
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