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Jealousy fueled West Side slaying, prosecutors say

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A West Side man's desire to beat one of his gay roommates to death and the other into an unconscious stupor may have been fueled by a perception that the men were making passes at his wife, prosecutors said Monday.

Kenneth Eugene Carter, 51, is on trial this week on charges of first-degree murder for allegedly attacking Ronald Forton as he slept and bludgeoning him to death with a baseball bat the men kept in their Buehring Street apartment.

Minutes before he delivered the fatal blows, Carter ambushed Forton's live-in partner, Brady Dunlap, and left him in a bloody heap on a couch in the living room, prosecutors said.

Dunlap survived severe injuries. Police found Forton, 51, dead more than 24 hours later.

Kanawha County assistant prosecutor Charles Miller told jurors that Carter lived with Forton and Dunlap off and on, but became increasingly suspicious that his gay friends were making advances on his wife, Kelly Tran.

On July 19, after a night of heavy drinking, Dunlap reached for the remote control for his TV, Miller said. He pushed the power button, and noticed Carter's reflection in the blank screen.

"Where are you going with that bat, Kenny?" Dunlap asked, according to Miller.

Carter struck Dunlap several times, fracturing the man's kneecap and clavicle, and at one point delivered a blow to the head that rendered him unconscious until the next morning, Miller said.

Carter then walked into Forton's bedroom and beat the man to death as he lay in his bed, Miller said. He returned to Dunlap and fell asleep on the couch next to him.

Dunlap and Carter woke at around 10 a.m. the next morning. Dunlap, covered in blood and scared for his life, dialed 911. He told paramedics that he had fallen down the porch stairs, Miller said.

Carter blocked Dunlap from checking on his partner, Miller said.

Apparently it did not register with police and paramedics that Dunlap had been viciously attacked until he arrived at the hospital, although at one point at least one paramedic noticed blood in the living room. Police did not find Forton until Adult Protective Services cased the home at Dunlap's request more than a day later.

"When they opened the door to the bedroom, there lay Ronald Forton," Miller told the jury, "beaten to death, covered in blood."

Carter's attorney, Charles Hamilton, said that his client "has been waiting a long time for someone to listen to him."

"Kenny did not do this murder," Hamilton said, "and he didn't do this malicious wounding."

Hamilton said that Carter was asleep on his mat in the kitchen the entire night and that he called 911 when he found Dunlap, blood pouring out of his head, unconscious on the couch.

Carter, who did not have a drop of blood on his shirt, even walked Dunlap out to the ambulance, Hamilton said.

Hamilton admitted that the roommates constantly fought with each other, but Carter did not fear that Forton and Dunlap were moving in on his wife.

"Our case will show Kenny has never worried about his wife," Hamilton said. "These were two gay guys."

Hamilton said that Carter intends to testify during the trial, which continues Tuesday before Kanawha County Circuit Judge James C. Stucky.

Reach Zac Taylor at Zachary.Taylor@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5189.


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