Man gets 8-10 years for manslaughter

Published 9:20 am Thursday, September 24, 2015

Family members of a man killed during a fight last November faced the man charged with that death in Davie Superior Court Monday, Sept. 14.

The mother, father, and grandmother of Stephen Avery Poston begged Judge Julia Gullett to give Steven Edward McCarter Jr. the maximum sentence for the stabbing of their loved one.

According to Assistant DA Rob Taylor, a large number of people were at parties on Cross Street in Cooleemee late at night Nov. 21, 2014. It was 10 days after Poston, who lived in Concord, turned 21.

An altercation occurred, possibly after a third party, Kenneth Jacob Mueten, then 20, of Salisbury and his girlfriend, Autumn Lagle, went to a nearby house to buy crack cocaine. Mueten and McCarter began arguing in the street and Poston went to help Mueten, Taylor said. The fight turned physical and Poston was stabbed nine times, in the head, neck, buttock, arm and chest.

According to the autopsy, the wound to the chest was the fatal one, Taylor said.

The investigation was difficult, said Taylor, because the person closest to the incident was Mueten, and he was using crack cocaine and had been drinking. His first statement to police was a lie because he was afraid of getting in trouble because of his drug use, the DA said.

McCarter, 37, had gotten out of prison for felony assault on a child a few months before the fight and was living with his mother in Cooleemee. Taylor said he told her to call 911 and said, “‘Mom, I had to stab him because he was hurting me.’”

Any of the stab wounds should have been enough to stop whatever Poston was doing to McCarter, but nine was “excessive in nature” Taylor said.

He also said Poston had no alcohol or drugs in his system, a statement that was refuted by McCarter’s attorney, Lori Hamilton. She said it was determined he had not consumed alcohol but said no test was done for the presence of drugs.

McCarter was charged with first degree murder but was pleading guilty to voluntary manslaughter.

Hamilton said it was Mueten who went after McCarter, who was simply walking up the road.

“He was not in the yard, not in the house but was walking up the road, and Mr. Mueten started verbally confronting my client, and Mr. Poston was young and made a bad decision that night to interject himself, and a fight ensued. My client, once attacked, did defend himself. He had a small knife in his pocket he pulled out and he started swinging. When you are a small guy down on the ground with two people on top of you, you might start swinging, and that’s what he did, and he didn’t stop swinging until they got off him,” she said.

Pictures Hamilton took the day after the attack showed McCarter’s face swollen and bruised. He suffered a fractured orbital bone and other facial injuries as well as two cracked ribs.

“So it’s apparent he was assaulted and attacked. Witnesses say Mr. Mueten and Mr. Poston had him on the ground beating him,” she said.

Mueten was charged with assault after the attack, but Hamilton said the state dismissed the charges because they said they couldn’t find McCarter.

“Which is very interesting because he was in custody, where he’d been since that night,” she said. “So Mr. Mueten, who absolutely assaulted my client has had no consequences whatsoever.”

In arguing for a lesser sentence, mitigating factors include Poston being a voluntary participant in the fight, McCarter’s blood alcohol level of .17, which would indicate “diminished capacity” and a good support system, Hamilton said, asking Gullett for a lighter sentence.

Poston’s grandmother, Mary Baker, said one of the things people liked so much about her grandson was that he would do anything to help anyone.

“And that’s what got him in trouble that night,” she said. “He was a fine young man who did not drink or do drugs. He was kindhearted and had the most beautiful smile that lit up his whole face and the room. There is a hole in our hearts that can never be filled.”

Poston’s father, Phillip, worked with his son and described him as a “beast” in production work. As a manager at the company, he said he was reluctant to hire his son, but “that was the best hire I’ve ever made,” he said. “There is no sentence you can give this man that would help me, but I’m asking for the max. I need time to heal.”

Her voice shaking and with tears streaming down her face, Poston’s mother, Christy, said she cries herself to sleep every night and breaks down every day.

“I think about his last moments. My son was there helping someone he shouldn’t have been helping and he didn’t have the wisdom to walk away. Nothing is the same without him here. It’s a challenge to wake up every day, and it’s a challenge to go to sleep at night because I don’t know what I’m gonna dream about.”

Before sentencing, McCarter, who had been sitting quietly with his hands clasped in front of him, read from a piece of paper, telling the family while there was nothing he could say in apology that would make up for their suffering, he was “truly sorry for their loss. I wish with all my soul I could change what happened. I pray one day they will be able to forgive me.”

Gullett sentenced McCarter, who was charged with first-degree murder but tried on voluntary manslaughter, to 97 to 129 months and gave him credit for the 297 days he has been in jail awaiting trial. He must pay for his court appointed attorney and $10,938 restitution for Poston’s funeral cost. Gullett recommended work release.

She also said any of Poston’s personal belongings that were used in the investigation should be returned to the family.