By JB Clark
FULTON – Jake Carpenter was sentenced to serve two life sentences without chance of parole for the murder of an elderly Fulton couple on Monday, but Circuit Judge Paul Funderburk said he would have sentenced him to death had the law allowed it.
Funderburk said he had never seen “a more senseless, horrendous or heinous crime” nor “a more conceited, arrogant and callous attitude” in a defendant.
The sentencing came in Itawamba County Circuit Court after Funderburk, along with the family of the murder victims, watched an almost-hour long video-statement in which Carpenter, 32, confessed – with little remorse – to the brutal stabbing murders of Mildred Joy and Fred Doyle House, his next-door neighbors.
Earlier in the day, Carpenter had pled guilty to the March 2011 murders.
In the video taken not long after Carpenter was arrested on suspicion of the murders, he told deputies how and why he killed his neighbors.
The video began with Carpenter complaining about his cell and asking for coffee and cigarettes.
Carpenter told investigators: “I just couldn’t be on the streets anymore,” and then after a few more seconds of small talk jumped straight into the confession in the same tone he was talking about cigarettes before.
“What I did – truth – I did it. Both of them. It was wrong and I hate it. At the same time, I had been doing small (things) trying to get attention.”
He told investigators he asked Joy House for a cup of milk before binding her arms and legs, “so I wouldn’t see her flinching,” before choking and then stabbing her to death.
When Fred House returned home, Carpenter asked for his help repairing a lawn mower, which they worked on for some time before House entered his home where Carpenter stabbed him as well.
He went on to say he had been trying to get arrested on petty crimes for some time because he couldn’t handle being outside jail but was never arrested.
He told deputies all the ways he could have gotten away with the crime but confessed that deep down he wanted to get caught.
Before the sentencing, the children of the Houses had an opportunity to address their parents’ killer.
Tom House, the son of the victims, said his parents struggled through many hard times in their lives and believed in hard work and helping others. He said they even reached out a helping hand to Carpenter on numerous occasions.
“If my parents could speak at this moment, their concern would be even for you and they would want you to be where they are,” House said. “As difficult a thing as that might be for you to comprehend, that’s the kind of people they are. All I can say is, may God have mercy on you because I don’t think the state of Mississippi is. We will be thinking of you and your family in that regard.”
John Helmert, attorney for Carpenter, painted his client as the unfortunate product of a flawed system, first going to the Oakley Training School at the age of 15 after his mom sent him to youth court for skipping school.
He later was sentenced to return to the school at age 16 when he was charged with drug possession. While awaiting transfer in Lee County another juvenile inmate, Steven Farris, murdered one of the guards, Casey Harmon, and unlocked Carpenter’s cell and Carpenter walked away.
After being released for the possession charges and his association with Farris’ murder of the guard, Carpenter’s mother reported a parole violation at which point he was sentenced to serve 15 years in the penitentiary and placed in the unit housing for more violent and career criminals.
“Jake was raised in prisons and those conditions are not good for those who are young and impressionable,” Helmert said.
Helmert said the difference between Jake and his older brother Matt, who was scheduled to testify at trial, is that Matt had a church to support him and when he failed, was surrounded by good people who taught him to do better.
Judge Funderburk, after listening to the video-taped statement and the mitigating factors that would have been presented to a jury, told Carpenter the difference between him and his brother is the choices his brother made.
“You aren’t the first to grow up without a father or mother,” he said. “I for one was raised by my grandmother and have yet to go to the penitentiary. I hear nothing but excuses. Your video statement speaks volumes about who you are. No one could describe you better than what you described yourself to be…
“In all my years, I’ve seen a lot of horrible and senseless crime but never have I seen a more senseless, horrendous or heinous crime than when you murdered these two law-abiding, God-fearing citizens… Of all criminals I’ve dealt with in my career, I’ve never seen a more conceited, arrogant and callous attitude as was shown by you in your statement.
“I don’t have the authority to impose the death penalty under the law, but if I did you would already be out of here and this would be over with… You told investigators this was not your first rodeo; well, it will be your last.”
Satisfied with life
District Attorney Trent Kelly said he and the family would have rather seen the trial go before a jury but believe justice was served with two consecutive life sentences with no chance of parole or early release.
“I’m satisfied to know a very dangerous man who, in my opinion, didn’t show a whole lot of remorse, will never be outside of the penitentiary system again to hurt anyone in the free world,” Kelly said. “Jake Carpenter can never hurt anyone again.”
A jury trial was originally scheduled for Monday morning.
After a tense debate before Funderburk over whether to proceed with trial after the weekend’s plea negotiations fell apart, the two parties agreed to a plea settlement.