Dying suspect’s confession leads to remains that are believed to be that of missing woman, daughter

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — A confession by a suspect in failing health led authorities to what they believe are the remains of a long-missing woman and her daughter who were buried in the backyard of a southern West Virginia home.

Susan Carter and her daughter, Natasha “Alex” Carter, have not been seen since Aug. 8, 2000. Authorities announced that they found what were believed to be the pair's remains Monday at the home of suspect Larry Webb, hours after the man's death.

“It’s kind of a sad day, but also a happy day because I can bring my baby home,” Alex Carter’s father, Rick Lafferty, said at a news conference Tuesday at state police headquarters in South Charleston.

Webb, who was in his 80s, suffered a medical episode on Monday at the Mount Olive Correctional Complex, where he was being held without bond after having been arrested earlier this month in connection with the girl’s death. Webb was pronounced dead at a hospital six hours before the remains were discovered.

"A bit of a poetic ending that not even I can write,” Raleigh County Prosecutor Ben Hatfield said at the news conference.

Webb's confession earlier this month led authorities to find the bodies, which have been sent to the state medical examiner’s office for autopsies. That confession came after Webb was confronted with mounting evidence. FBI Supervisory Special Agent Tony Rausa said a bullet was extracted from a bedroom wall during a search of Webb's home about 18 months ago. DNA tests eventually confirmed blood on the bullet belonged to Alex Carter.

At the time they went missing, Susan Carter, 41, was in a contentious custody battle with Lafferty and had told him he would never see his 10-year-old daughter again, according to an FBI flyer from back then. Carter and her daughter were living in Webb’s house when they disappeared.

Hatfield said Webb told investigators that he shot Susan Carter after discovering some money was missing from the home and an argument ensued.

“It was a detailed, undeniable, unconflicted confession,” Hatfield said. Webb indicated "that he believed he had to shoot Alex Carter to avoid detection for having killed Susan Carter.”

Webb wrapped the bodies in bed linens and placed them in his basement that night. Over the next two nights, Webb dug a shallow grave in the woods on his property, burying the mother and daughter in their clothes, Hatfield said.

Those details are “consistent with what we found over the course of the last 24 hours,” Hatfield said.

A landscaper who lived nearby showed up with a crew and two excavators to assist investigators in digging for the bodies, turning the soil over the entire backyard to a depth of about 4.5 feet (1.4 meters).

Before he died, Webb was brought to the excavation site, “but his mind is not what it used to be," Rausa said. "He couldn’t pinpoint the location. And with surgical precision, these two operators worked those excavators and literally went row by row by row.”

Monday was the third day of digging.

“The way the crime was detailed to us by Larry Webb and the condition we found the bodies in confirmed for us with a high degree of certainty that the two bodies found are those of Susan and Alex Carter,” Rausa said.

The FBI announced a renewed push for answers in the case in 2021. Police executed search warrants at Webb’s home in 2022 and 2023. During one of those searches, Webb told news outlets he did not know what happened to the girl and did not know when he last saw her.

“I don’t remember,” Webb said. “I have dementia. I can’t say exactly.”

Webb was indicted last October on a murder charge in the girl’s disappearance, but his incarceration was delayed until this month due to his deteriorating health. He was transferred from the Southern Regional Jail to a medical wing at Mount Olive last week.