On Oct. 1, Rasheem Carter from Fayette, Mississippi, sent a chilling final text message to his mother.
The Black 25-year-old told her he was being chased by a group of white men in pickup trucks while they hurled racist abuse at him. She reported him missing the following day and never heard from him again.
A month later, Carter's dismembered remains were discovered in a wooded area with his head completely severed from his body, according to the family.
'These Guys Wanting to Kill Me'
Carter reached out to his mother on Oct. 1 telling her in a detailed text message that he was having issues with his coworkers and feared for his life, Carter's mother said at a press conference on 13 March. Carter was working at a nearby plant in Taylorsville as a contractor.
"Me and the owner of this company are not seeing eye to eye," the message read. "If anything happens to me [he] is responsible for it... he got these guys wanting to kill me."
Carter gave his mother the name of the individual he was fearful of and told her that he was being chased by a group of white men in three trucks. "My son told me that it was three truckloads of white guys trying to kill him. And at the time that he told me, as a mother, you know, I had to think fast," she said.
Taylorsville Police Refused to Give Carter a Ride Because They Weren't a 'Taxi Service'
Later that day, Carter went to the Taylorsville Police Station to report that he feared for his life, according to Ms Carter. He also asked for a ride back to the Super 8 motel in Laurel, where he was living, about 22 miles southeast of Taylorsville. However, he was denied a ride.
Police agree that Carter asked for a ride, but they have given conflicting accounts about the extent to which he voiced fear for his life ― or if he did at all. Earlier this year, Taylorsville police told HuffPost that Carter never mentioned fearing for his life and that police denied his request for a ride because they were not a "taxi service."
But Taylorsville Police Chief Gabe Horn told a local newspaper something else in December: that Carter did file a police report when he visited the station but declined to press any charges against whomever was threatening him. He said police refused to give him a ride to Laurel because it was out of the department's jurisdiction.
Trail Cam Photo Shows Carter 'Running for His Life'
At 4.32pm on 2 October – one day after he last communicated with his family and the same day a missing persons report was filed – Carter was captured on deer trail camera footage in the wooded area where his remains were later found.
In the footage – a still of which was shown to Carter's family and shared with Business Insider– the 25-year-old is seen shirtless in the woods south of Taylorsville. His upper body appears to be covered in bruises and marks and he is holding what looks like a large branch.
Ms Carter told Insider that it shows her son was "running for his life." "You could see there are bruises on him," she said. "When I see that picture, I know my son was somewhere struggling, somewhere running for his life... I really believe he was chased there." "The picture shows something is not right. Something transpired," she added.
Then on Nov. 2 – exactly one month after he was last seen alive and after the case was passed to Smith County – his skeletal remains were discovered in a wooded area about 300 yards from where he was captured by the trail camera.
Family Told No Foul Play Suspected, Carter Most Likely Killed by Wild Animals
Smith County Sheriff Joel Houston, whose department is leading the investigation into Carter's death, told the outlet that no other individuals were picked up by the trail camera. "He's the only one on the camera. It doesn't show anybody else present," he said.
"At this point, we're just trying to rule out any possibility of anybody being present in his last time alive. The evidence we have right now is not showing anybody with him." Sheriff Houston also claimed that the "bruises" on Carter's body could actually be "shadows."
Laurel Police Chief Cox said that his officers spoke to "one or two" of Carter's coworkers as part of the investigation but revealed that the unnamed individuals had already left the state.
In a statement announcing the discovery of Carter's remains, the Smith County Sheriff's Office said that it did not believe there was any signs of foul play in his death. "At this time, we have no reason to believe foul play was involved, but the case is still under investigation," the department said.
Houston told Insider that there was no evidence to support the claim that Carter was murdered but insisted that "everything is still on the table." "There is nothing being covered up. There is nothing being swept under the rug," he said. "There's nothing to hide." He also suggested that animals could have been responsible for Carter's body parts being in separate locations.
Carter's Family Conducted an Independent Autopsy
The autopsy performed by the state medical examiner later that month, on Nov. 22, was more circumspect. It did note that the remains showed "no pathological conditions or significant skeletal trauma" but did observe several fractures. It said decomposition was very advanced and the remains were incomplete. It listed the cause of death as "undetermined."
An independent autopsy later revealed that the young man's head was "severed" from his body. His spinal cord was also recovered in a different location. Other parts of the 25-year-old are still missing, Civil Rights Attorney Ben Crump, who is representing Carter's family, said during the press conference.
The independent autopsy also revealed that Carter's bottom and top front teeth were missing, suggesting he was assaulted prior to his death. "This was not a natural death. This represents a young man who was killed." Mr Crump also said that someone had tried to use Carter's credit card at a time when he was now known to have already died.