Remains of victims in decades-old murder investigation found, alleged killer confesses days before death

BECKLEY, WV (WOAY) – Local, state, and federal agencies have made significant progress in the cold case investigation into the murders of Susan and Natasha “Alex” Carter.

Earlier this month, they secured a confession from the alleged killer, Larry Webb.

Yesterday, they discovered what are believed to be the remains of the two victims, buried just a few feet below the surface of Webb’s backyard.

It’s a moment that’s over 20 years in the making. Both Susan and Alex Carter went missing on August 8, 2000. Alex was just ten years old at the time.

Authorities say the two went missing while Susan was in a custody battle with Alex’s father, Rick Lafferty.

They were staying with Webb while this was going on. At a press conference held today, Raleigh County Prosecuting Attorney Ben Hatfield said that Webb told police that he initially killed Susan Carter during a dispute over some money that Webb claimed went missing.

He said he killed Alex Carter to cover up her mother’s murder.

At today’s press conference, officials spoke about the hard work that went into the investigation, but also shared their condolences with Lafferty.

“I’m glad we’re here today, but I’m sorry as well. I wanted to tell you that,” Jack Chambers, interim superintendent of the West Virginia State Police, said, directly addressing Lafferty.

“It’s a sad day, but also a happy day, because I get to take my baby home,” Lafferty said. “This case went cold so many times, I almost lost hope several times.”

“I’d like to tell anyone in my position to never give up.”

It was a long process to get Lafferty the answers he was looking for. According to Hatfield, the investigation really began to ramp up in 2021.

“The FBI got involved, specifically Special Agent Jennifer King. and then she brought in Corporal Ryan Stowers, who was stationed in the Bureau of Criminal Investigation at the West Virginia State Police,” Hatfield said. “They started investigating the case pretty heavily in 2021, which coincided with me taking office. Once they had done significant investigative steps, they came to me and asked for consultation on some search warrants.”

Those search warrants eventually led to a breakthrough in the investigation into the death of Natasha Carter. Authorities found Carter’s DNA in blood inside Webb’s home.

With that evidence in hand, Hatfield took it to a grand jury, which indicted Webb for murder. Since that indictment, he has been held without bond.

Fast forward to earlier this month, when Hatfield and special investigator Jeff Shumate visited Webb. The meeting yielded major results.

“Over the course of about a two-hour conversation, Mr. Webb confessed both murders to Mr. Shumate and indicated that the bodies were buried behind his house,” Hatfield said. “He detailed the murders pretty vividly in enough detail that one, corroborated the fact that it was a true confession, and two, also aligned with all the circumstantial evidence that had been collected by the FBI and the state police up to that point.”

Investigators immediately obtained another search warrant. They searched the entire yard in a grid pattern, with help from New Horizons Landscaping, who provided manpower and excavators, and two cadaver dogs that helped.

In the late afternoon hours of April 22, they found what they were looking for.

“We were operating as if this was a true confession, and it turned out to be a true confession,” Hatfield said. “Alex Carter and Susan Carter were found behind the house.”

Hatfield thanked everyone involved: Special Agent King with the FBI, Corporal Stowers with the West Virginia State Police, and New Horizons Landscaping. He also thanked the United States Marshals, the United States Attorney’s Office, and the Beckley Police Department.

“We couldn’t have done it without their help,” he said. “It was truly a joint effort. These are the kinds of amazing things that can happen when agencies work together and force multiply. I can’t thank them enough.”

Webb never lived to see the remains of the two victims discovered. He died just hours before the discovery after suffering what officials are describing as a medical episode.

His health had been deteriorating. Although he was indicted last October, he wasn’t incarcerated until this month. He was being held in the medical facility at the Mount Olive Correctional Center.

On principle, Hatfield does not believe in coincidences. He said he can’t afford to because of his job. However, the timing of Webb’s death was “morbidly poetic” in the wake of his final confession.

“I think we all think toward the end of our life, about our own mortality, about a potential afterlife. “I think these are things that tend to weigh on us later in life that we don’t think about when we have the youthful exuberance of tomorrow that we perceive to be guaranteed to us,” Hatfield said. “Larry Webb dying at 10:30 on the morning of the day we found the bodies, that’s a script that writes itself.”

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