The Crimes of Florida Death Row Inmate Emilia Carr

A Deadly Love Triangle That Ends in Murder

Mugshot of Emilia Carr
Emilia Carr. Mugshot

Emilia Carr, 26, was sentenced to death for her role in the murder of Heather Strong in what authorities described as a deadly love triangle.

Case Summary

Josh Fulgham and Heather Strong started dating when Strong was 15 years old. Their relationship was tumultuous from the beginning, but despite it they had two children together.

In 2003 the family moved from Mississippi to Marion County, Florida. Their fighting continued and over the next several years the couple fought, broke up, and then reunited several times.

In June 2008, during one of their separations, Strong decided she and the children would move in with the couple's friend, Benjamin McCollum. The plan was that she would be the live-in nanny for McCollum's two children, but after about three weeks their relationship became intimate.

Fulgham did not like that Strong lived with McCollum, even though he engaged to Emilia Carr, who had three children and was pregnant with his child.

Over the next six months Fulgham stalked and harassed both Strong and McCollum repeatedly and threatened them both with a gun.

According to friends, Strong seemed very happy with McCollum and with her new life. They found it surprising when she decided to leave McCollum and return to Fulgham in December 2008.

Carr was also surprised by the couple's reunion. A few weeks into December, she was told by Fulgham that their relationship was over and that she had to move out.

She told friends that she loved Fulgham and did not know how she would live without him, especially since she was pregnant with his child.

By December 26, Fulgham and Strong got married; however their honeymoon was a short one. Six days into the marriage, Strong had Fulgham arrested after he threatened her with a shotgun during a heated argument.

Fulgham  was charged with assault with a deadly weapon and remained in jail for several weeks. During that time Carr visited Fulgham and they rekindled their relationship. His mother and Carr, both who were on friendly terms with Strong, tried to get her to write a letter on Fulgham's behalf, but she refused.

During one such attempt, witnesses said Carr became so enraged by Strong's refusal to help get Fulgham released from jail, that she pulled her hair and held a knife to her neck. She only relinquished the knife after being held in a choke-hold by a mutual friend, James Acome.

Hiring a Hit Man

James Acome once dated Carr and she believed he was the father of her youngest child, although he never acknowledged it. He was also friends with Strong and Fulgham.

In early January, while visiting Carr who was in the advanced stage of pregnancy with Fulgham's child, she asked Acome and his friend, Jason Lotshaw, if they would kill Strong for $500. They rejected her proposal.

She told another friend to help her put the word out that she would pay someone $500 to kill Strong. She said that she planned to use her income tax refund to pay for the job. No one applied for the job.

Acome and Strong

In mid-January, Acome and Strong began dating and moved into an apartment together on January 26, 2009.

 A week later Fulgham was released from jail and he moved in with his mother.

Strong Disappears

On February 15, Fulgham asked his mother to help him compose a letter for Strong to sign, giving him custody of their two children. This was motivated by Carr, who informed Fulgham while he was still in jail that Strong was planning on leaving the state with the children. 

On that same day Strong left work after receiving an emergency phone call about her children. Around mid-day on the same day, Fulgham's mother saw her son and Strong driving away from her home.

Later that evening Acome returned home from work and found that Strong and her children had moved out. He then received a call from Fulgham who told him that he and Strong were back together.

Reported as Missing

On February 24, 2009, Misty Strong contacted the Marion County Sheriff's office and reported that her cousin Heather Strong had disappeared.

The investigation led to Carr and Fulgham who were brought in for questioning. Over the course of several days and multiple interviews, both Carr and Fulgham blamed each other for the murder of Heather Strong.

The Murder

According to investigators, Fulgham and Carr plotted together to kill Strong because of his earlier arrest and because she had refused Fulgham's request for custody of their children and was planning to move them to another state.

On February 15, Fulgham lured Strong to a mobile home that was being used for storage and that was located on the property where Carr's family lived.

Fulgham told Strong that Carr had hidden money inside the storage trailer. Once the two were inside, Carr, who was seven months pregnant, entered the trailer as planned. Seeing Carr frightened Strong and she attempted to leave the trailer, but Fulgham wrestled her back inside.

Fulgham then tied Strong to a chair from which she managed to escape. Then Carr used duct tape to tape her body and hands to the chair while Fulgham held her down. Strong began crying and begging to be released. Instead, Fulgham forced her to sign the custody letter that his mother had helped him prepare.

Carr said Fulgham broke the flashlight that she was carrying, when he used it to hit Strong over the head. He then placed a garbage bag over her head while Carr pulled off enough duct tape to wind around Strong's neck, which tightened the bag.

Carr then made two failed attempts to break Strong's neck. When that did not work, Fulgham covered Strong's nose and mouth with his hand and suffocated her to death.

Two days later, Fulgham returned to the trailer and buried Strong's body in a shallow grave nearby.

Fulgham ended up disclosing the location of Strong's body to the detectives while he was being interviewed about her disappearance. He also told them that Carr was responsible for his estranged wife's death.

Carr was being questioned at the same time and told detectives that Fulgham was the killer, but her story changed several times.

Physical and forensic evidence found at the trailer, in the shallow grave and on Strong's body gave investigators enough to arrest both Carr and Fulgham and charge them with first-degree murder and kidnapping.

Take Your Pick

Unknown to Carr, Fulgham's sister agreed to cooperate with the police. Carr trusted her and would often cry on her shoulder, not knowing her conversations were being recorded.

What she told Fulgman's sister about the murder was completely different than what she told the police.

At first she said she had not seen Strong since January 2009. Next she said she had information about Fulgham who she said told her that he killed Strong. That changed to discovering Strong's body inside the trailer a day after Fulgham committed the murder. She then admitted to seeing Fulgham kill Strong, which led to her final confession that she helped Fulgham carry out the plan to murder Strong.

In her final admission before her trial, she provided investigators with information that proved her involvement; including an accurate description of a blanket and suitcase that she and Fulgham used when burying Strong, as well as a description of the clothing Strong was wearing when she was murdered.

She also led police to Strong's shoes that had not been found on the body or in the grave.

The Trial

At her arraignment in April 2009 Carr waived her right to a speedy trial. Immediately afterwards, lead prosecutor Rock Hooker filed notice of his intent to pursue the death penalty. The trial began on December 1, 2010. State Attorney Brad King, the lead prosecutor, had built the case on circumstantial evidence. There was no real physical evidence found that proved Carr had anything to do with Strong's murder.

However, several witnesses lined up to give testimony that they were asked by Carr to kill, or help her find someone to kill, her boyfriend's estranged wife, Heather Strong.

There was also testimony given about the time Carr held a knife to Strong's throat when she refused to drop charges against Fulgham after he threatened her with a shotgun.

However, the most damaging evidence the prosecution presented were videos of Carr telling the police different versions of what happened the night of the murder. 

He also presented the tape recordings of Carr talking to Fulgman's sister Michele Gustafson, who was working with the police. Carr supplied a detailed account of what inside the trailer, which contradicted her previous statements to police that she never entered the trailer on the night Strong was murdered.

On the tape jurors clearly heard Carr talking about her attempts to break Strong's neck and how she thought it would be quick and painless. She also admitted to Gustafson that Strong fought off Fulgham, but that she helped him restrain her and that they duct taped her to a chair.

She also said that she intended to tell authorities that Jamie Acome and Jason Lotshaw were responsible for the murder; although she left out that she had already implicated Fulgham.

Carr described how Fulgham hit Strong hard on her head with the flashlight each time she said something that he did not like and finally how she placed the garbage bag over Strong's head and how Fulgham suffocated her to death.

The jury deliberated for two and a half hours and found Carr guilty of kidnapping and first-degree murder.

Penalty Phase

During the penalty phase of the trial, defense attorney Candace Hawthorne spoke about the abuse Carr experienced as a child. Members of Carr's family testified that she was traumatized as young child after being sexually abused by her father and grandfather.

It had little impact on the jury who, in a slim 7-5 vote, recommended that Carr, age 26, receive the death penalty.

Having remained silent since her arrest, Carr spoke out to the press after the jury voted for death. In yet another version of what happened, she said that she had never gone into the trailer and in fact did not even know that Fulgham and Strong were there.

In reference to the secret tape recording that police had of her admitting her involvement to Fulgman's sister, she said that she was trying to get details about the murder to give to the State Attorney so that she could get immunity and get her children back. She needed details, so she made up stories. She said she felt pressure to make up things after the police threatened her with her children.

In February 22, 2011, Circuit Judge Willard Pope formally sentenced Carr to life imprisonment on the kidnapping charges and death for the murder charges. On February 23, 2011, Carr was moved to death row at Lowell Correctional Institution in Marion County, Florida.

Fulgham Gets Off Easy

Joshua Fulgham went on trial a year later. He was also found guilty of first-degree murder and kidnapping. His defense lawyer asked the jury to consider a life sentence because he suffered from mental and sexual abuse.

The jury returned an 8-4 vote for a life sentence. Circuit Judge Brian Lambert upheld the jury's decision and Fulgham was given a life sentence with the possibility of parole.

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Montaldo, Charles. "The Crimes of Florida Death Row Inmate Emilia Carr." ThoughtCo, Sep. 3, 2015, thoughtco.com/death-row-inmate-emilia-carr-proflile-973495. Montaldo, Charles. (2015, September 3). The Crimes of Florida Death Row Inmate Emilia Carr. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/death-row-inmate-emilia-carr-proflile-973495 Montaldo, Charles. "The Crimes of Florida Death Row Inmate Emilia Carr." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/death-row-inmate-emilia-carr-proflile-973495 (accessed November 23, 2017).