Police close 15-year-old homicide case after suspect dies

Local News

Fort Wayne police have closed a 15-year-old cold case after new information led them to a suspect who has since died, but the mother of the suspect is saying her son’s name and legacy is being unfairly tarnished.

Joshua Salyer was killed three days before Thanksgiving in 2003. After an argument over $30, he was shot. His body was found at a recycling plant the next morning.

The case went cold after that.

Police said Lawton Carter Jr. was considered a suspect in the killing, but he died in 2017 before he could be charged with Salyer’s death.

On Monday, then, police said detectives received new information about the case in mid-2018 and conducted several interviews. Detective Brian Martin explained that three witnesses came forward for detailed interviews, in which what they said was consistent with the facts and evidence of the 2003 crime scene.

As a result of the interviews and information provided by witnesses, Fort Wayne police and the Allen County Prosecutor’s Office have closed the case.

Martin said there was no DNA found or necessary to close the case and that the interviewees did not appear to be suspects in any way, shape, or form.

“I wish that this case would have been brought to closure much sooner so that the suspect, Mr. Carter, could have faced his day in court and that we could have brought the family of the victim closure much sooner than we did,” Martin said. “Unfortunately, we can’t pick and choose when witnesses come forward and we’re just happy that we ultimately were able to bring some closure and bring this case to an end even though it was 15 years.”

Carter’s mother, Alta Carter, wants to know who the witnesses are and what they said, but police won’t tell her to protect them from any harm. 

“Well, if those three were there [at the crime scene], why aren’t these three being charged instead of a man that was buried two years ago?” she asked on behalf of her dead son. 

Martin said they had enough information to close Joshua Salyer’s case, but Alta asks how can they close the case definitively if the suspect is dead and unable to go through the court process? She said closing the case makes her son appear guilty, but he’ll never be able to defend himself from grave. 

“How can you charge him again when he’s dead in the dirt two years later?” she asked. “This is so wrong and God knows I feel sorry for the family for the boy who’s dead. But I’m telling you my son did not do this. My son may have been a lot of things, but he was not a murderer.”

Salyer’s mother, Debbie Argerbright, told WANE 15 in August 2018 that an eyewitness to the crime had come forward. It’s not clear if that was the development that allowed police to close the case, though.

She said then that the development was bittersweet. 

“I always envisioned that someday they would catch who did it. I would get to go to court, that I would get to look him in the eye and let him see the pain that he caused taking my son from me,” Argerbright told WANE 15 last year.

At the time of his death, Carter was going through the court process for posession of methamphetamine in Elkhart County. The case was dismissed in January, 2017.

Carter was also called to appear in court in Allen County after his death, in September, 2017. The driving while suspended charge and three others were then dismissed in October. 

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