By Jim Hagerty
ROCKFORD — Mid-December marks a joyous time for children who celebrate Christmas in Rockford. The year 2014 was no different for Martia Flint’s children–until Dec. 20, when Calvin Carter visited her duplex.
Instead of Christmas cheer and goodwill to men, Carter brought a reign of terror, an onslaught of gunfire that killed the two boys, Tyrone Smith III, 6; and Tobias K. Smith, 4. Carter also gunned down 24-year-old Flint and her 24-year-old boyfriend, aspiring boxer Demonte Rhodes.
Carter was no stranger to Flint. The two had dated before she ended the relationship. And for good reason, the state showed. According to dozens of text messages between them, Flint left Carter because he was controlling, going so far as to dictate to whom she spoke. An incident of physical abuse followed.
Prosecutors said Monday during closing arguments that Carter relentlessly pursued reconciliation, but that Flint wanted out. Carter became increasingly aggressive when Flint ended the relationship and began seeing Rhodes, who she dated previously.
Begging Flint to forgive him, Carter persisted. Flint attempted to let him down easily, even offering to be there for Carter if he “ever needed to talk.”
But Carter became even more jilted and obsessed, and Flint asked him to stop contacting her.
“Leave me alone,” Flint texted. “I am scared of you.”
By the night of the shooting, Carter was faced with the reality that Flint had moved on – a reality he did not want to face.
“It was about control, jealousy and the unwillingness to accept the finality,” Deputy State’s Attorney Jim Brun told the jury.
Brun said Carter displayed that unwillingness when he began pounding on the door of Flint’s Montrose Avenue apartment. When she didn’t answer, he broke through into the living room, pulled out a .45 caliber handgun and started shooting.
Flint retreated down a hallway as slugs blasted into walls and into the bathroom. He shot Rhodes and Tyrone in the back, knocking them down before finding Flint and Tobias in a bedroom, where she, charged with the natural instinct to protect her babies, attempted to shield her son from the flurry of bullets. Both were killed at close range.
“The reign of terror didn’t stop there,” Brun said, telling the jury Carter, instead of fleeing the scene, found Rhodes and Tobias and finished them off in the kitchen.
A total of 13 shots were fired.
Public defender Nick Zimmerman argued that there was no physical evidence connecting Carter to the killings, and that circumstantial evidence was not enough to find him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Carter wore gloves, Brun said, at least one similar to those issued at Android in Belvidere, where the defendant worked with his uncle.
DNA found on a sweatshirt and recovered along with the glove and casings from the same gun all pointed to Calvin Carter, Brun concluded.
The jury deliberated for about three hours Monday before handing the verdict to Judge Fernando Englesma at around 8 p.m.: guilty on all counts.
Calvin Rhodes said he while struggles with moving on without his son and rest of the victims, forgiveness is what has gotten him this far. Part of the core leadership of 100 Strong, Rhodes said Carter’s crimes are the result of a generational problem, one he has dedicated his life to solve.
“It’s very important to forgive this individual so that I do not harbor any negative energy and continue to allow him control in areas of my life,” Rhodes said.
“I completely understand that aside from the heinous crime that he committed to my family, he is also a victim. He is a victim of society. I have said from the onset of this tragedy, that my conversation would not be with this young man, but it would be directed at his father. Most of the decisions our youth make–particularly black males–are made without the guidance of positive men in their lives.”
Rhodes now works to fill a gap for youth left without positive role models. And he has found healing in his own life as a result.
“When I look into the eyes of the youth that 100 Strong touches on a daily basis,” he said, “I can’t help but to see the loved ones that my family and I have lost. This is what motivates me, within 100 Strong, to make sure my family doesn’t die again.”
Sentencing for Carter is scheduled for Sept. 8. R.