First robbery victim thankful suspect in custody

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By Jenny Hartley

Thank God.

That was Linda Webster's first thought when she learned Friday morning that someone had been charged with a robbery that left her crawling on her hands and knees in the law office of Gregory and Gregory.

Martavious Semaj Carter, 17, of 609-A N. Market St., has been charged in connection with the law firm robbery on Aug. 21. Police have also named him as a suspect in four other armed robberies in Lancaster's downtown since Aug. 21.

"I can sleep now," Webster said Thursday afternoon.

31 charges

Carter has been charged by the police department with two counts of kidnapping, four counts of carjacking and five counts each of armed robbery, possession of a pistol during the commission of a violent crime, unlawful possession of a firearm, possession of a pistol by a person under 18 and possession of a pistol by a person convicted of a violent crime.

Police announced Thursday night that Carter had been charged in Thursday's kidnapping of a 70-year-old woman from the parking lot of Elizabeth Ann Interiors and Gifts on North Main Street. She was abducted at about 9 a.m.

The woman was forced into the trunk of the car and driven to a field behind Eastside Academy.

The woman worked for an hour with a garden spade to free herself from the trunk. She had minor injuries to her head and legs, according to police.

On Friday morning, Carter had also been charged in connection with the Aug. 21 armed robbery at Gregory and Gregory law firm; the Sept. 4 and Sept. 11 armed robberies at the Lancaster Post Office on North Main Street; and Tuesday's armed robbery of a clean-up crew employee in the parking lot of Founders Federal Credit Union at Covenant Place.

Lancaster Police Chief Hugh White said Carter confessed to all five robberies. By Friday afternoon, Carter had also been charged with two counts of arson in connection with the fires at the Lancaster County Courthouse and 6th Circuit Solicitor's office last month.

Carter lives with his grandparents and was taken in for questioning about 11:30 a.m. Thursday, White said.

"Honestly, I don't think the grandparents had a clue," White said.

Evidence found

Police conducted a search warrant at his Market Street home and found a .45-caliber pistol believed to have been used in the crimes. Officers also found keys, identification and other items belonging to the robbery victims at the home, White said.

Carter was "on the radar" as a possible suspect before Thursday's robbery, but police didn't have any solid evidence to charge him until State Law Enforcement Division crime scene technicians lifted what White said was a perfect set of finger prints from the woman's car in Thursday's incident. Those prints matched Carter's, White said.

Capt. Harlean Howard said a motive in the crimes isn't clear, but Carter's victims were likely chosen at random. In every case, the victim was alone.

"He saw an opportunity and seized the moment," Howard said.

"I feel a heartfelt relief for the citizens of Lancaster," Howard said. "Everybody was just in a panic. Businesses were calling for escorts. Daycares were calling and asking if it was safe to let the kids go out and play."

Carter was jailed on Thursday and has been denied bond.

'That child'

Webster said Carter's arrest will hopefully bring an end to the nightmarish month she's had since the robbery at Gregory and Gregory. She said she's had her children, ages 11 and 13, sleep with her since the incident, just so she knows they're OK.

It's been a month of pacing the floor, hearing strange noises, checking the doors and windows and sleepless nights.

She's shocked that a 17-year-old could commit crimes such as robbery and arson. She said her assailant spoke like a child, even as he told her to get on the floor of her office and as he put a pistol to her forehead.

"All through it, he was like, 'Ma'am, ma'am,'" Webster said. "I told the police that I couldn't believe that child could have done something like that. It bothered me big time that he was so young and so polite. It's just disturbing."

Contact senior reporter Jenny Hartley at jhartley@thelancasternews.com or at (803) 283-1151