For as many as 18 years, William Marion Carter was a ghost. The 67-year-old Riverside, California, resident instead operated as James Carter or a number of other aliases, officials say, and had an Arizona driver’s license to help him pull it off.

Now, a 73-year-old California woman he cared for is dead, having died under suspicious circumstances. And Carter, perhaps the only one who witnessed her death, will face trial in connection to her case beginning Wednesday.

He is charged with a catalog of felonies, including elder abuse, attempted grand theft, money laundering and 23 counts of forgery.

But despite mounting circumstantial evidence, prosecutors don’t have enough to charge him with Carol Folz’s death.

Investigators are seeking more information on this case or any of Carter’s other potential victims, as well as his ties to the Grand Canyon State.

In addition to his driver’s license, Carter owned five, late ’90s-model Lincoln Continentals with Arizona license plates, said Damon Tucker, supervising district attorney investigator for the Orange County District Attorney.

He also had a fraudulent Arizona notary license and claimed to be a retired professor at an Arizona university.

Tucker said Carter had no credit, no bank accounts and paid for everything in cash. The most recent known record of William Marion Carter was in 1999, when he came into contact with California police. Police believe he may also have ties to Utah, Nevada and New York.

Living off the digital grid, Tucker said, “is really difficult to do in this day and age. … He’s really an anomaly.”

A missing cousin

Between March 10 and March 18, 2016, Orange County officials say, Carter acted as caretaker for Folz, a distant cousin of Carter’s wife. Folz was legally blind and had lost her driver’s license. Carter took her to doctor’s appointments, ran errands with her and checked on her during this time, prosecutors said.

Also around this time, Folz died. The exact date of her death though, as well as many other details surrounding it, remain a mystery.

This was Carter’s intent, according to prosecutors. They say Carter contacted a private body removal service to transport Folz from her home in Laguna Niguel to San Bernardino, where he had her body cremated.

Carter did all of this without notifying law enforcement, paramedics or the coroner’s office, investigators said. He’s also accused of falsely claiming to be Folz’s brother and a doctor, of forging a death certificate and of forging a notary signature on the cremation authorization.

Nancy Dye, a cousin of Folz’s who lives in Illinois, was the first to sound the alarm to police.

Dye said she and Folz grew up together and later worked together for American Airlines in Chicago. After Folz moved to California, they two kept in touch with monthly phone calls and occasional visits.

They had missed a few calls in the early months of 2016, and Dye initially assumed Folz was on a trip or just busy. But Dye became worried by the end of July, when her birthday came and went without a call from Folz.

Dye called police for a welfare check, who reported back with strange information. They said Folz’s house had a “For Sale” sign in the yard and a lock box on the front door.

Police also talked to neighbors, Dye said, who told them a man had been coming by the house. He told them he was Folz’s brother, and that Folz had fallen. He was selling her house to pay for Folz’s rehab, the man said.

Dye was confused. Folz’s only brother had died before Folz was born. But she had at least one thread to pull — police provided the number for the house’s real-estate agent.

From there, Dye said she fielded several puzzling calls about Folz’s house. The was the one from real-estate agent “Craig Simms,” who said he didn’t know Folz but was told she needed money. Then there was “Mack Williams,” who said he was the brother of the house’s new owner. He told Dye that Folz’s neighbors were elderly and mistaken about him saying he was Folz’s brother.

Finally, there was “Louie the lawyer,” who said he was the executor of Folz’s estate.

It wasn’t until later that Dye realized she was talking to the same man, over and over, on disposable phones.

“The day I called police, he had a buyer,” Dye said about the man she now believes to be Carter. “They had already started escrow and pulled the title. So he was just trying to keep me at bay for two weeks and he was going to be gone.”

Disturbing clues about Folz’s death have trickled out since Carter’s arrest in March 2017.

According to Dye, the men who removed Folz’s body from her home commented that the room “smelled like death” and “looked like a crime scene.” There was dried blood on her, and her face was “pushed in” Dye said. There was phone cord laying near her with no phone attached.

“She was alive for days, it seems … that he left her at her bedside to die.”

Dye said she’s still shocked that none of Folz’s neighbors found reason to contact authorities about her cousin.

“This happened for months and nobody realized she was gone or dead or anything,” Dye said. “The house was for sale, and no one seemed to question it.”

Dye said she’s already testified in Carter’s pretrial hearing and plans to again in his trial. She’s also prepared a victim’s impact statement.

She’s worried that Folz wasn’t Carter’s first victim.

“That’s exactly why I want this man stopped,” she said. “I can’t do anything for Carol, but I want to save the next person.”

Carter’s attorney could not be reached for comment late Monday.

A case of fraud

Though the case initially started with the Sheriff’s Office, Tucker said Dye eventually contacted the Orange County District Attorneys office. If police weren’t going to investigate at it as a missing person’s case, Dye reasoned, maybe the DA’s office would take a look as a real-estate fraud case.

“So we got it, and it clearly appeared to be a suspicious death,” Tucker said. “We looked into it, and the more we looked, the more bizarre it got.”

Investigators eventually linked the suspicious real-estate agent/brother/pastor to Carter and executed a search warrant on his home.

Their yield was overwhelming. Investigators uncovered seven terabytes of data on his computer, amounting to “millions and millions” of artifacts and digital documents. They also discovered physical evidence in his home and storage units, including fraudulent documents and fraudulently notarized documents, investigators said.

“This guy was in the process of mutating into several identities,” Tucker said. “He knew how to be somebody else.”

Tucker said he’s hoping someone will come forward who can help piece together a timeline around Folz’s death. It’s possible that Carter reached out to other crematoriums or perhaps is suspected of similar crimes in other jurisdictions.

Tucker said while Carter uses several variations of his first name, he seems to stick with the surname “Carter.”

Tucker said Carter’s level of sophistication may signal more victims.

“I just don’t think somebody could wake up one day and pull off what he did,” Tucker said. “Seems like it would indicate this wasn’t his first time.”

Anyone with additional information about the suspicious death of Carol Folz and/or anyone who believes they may have been a victim of the defendant is encouraged to contact OCDA Supervising District Attorney Investigator Damon Tucker at 714-648-3615.


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