In 2015, a Canadian tourist and California therapist are slain inside parks surrounding San Francisco, California just a few days apart. The hunt for their murderers leads authorities on a wild chase that reveals a single predator isn’t behind the killings, but rather, a trio of young people holds the key.
- “Woman’s Body Found in Park” by Michael Barba and Jonah Lamb for The San Francisco Examiner
- “Homicide Victim’s Mother Ask for Privacy” by Jonah Lamb for The San Francisco Examiner
- “Trail Slaying Suspects Held: 3 Arrested in Portland with Victim’s Car” by Gary Klien, Adrian Rodriguez for The Sacramento Bee
- “Tantra Teacher at Retreat Killed on Trail” by Staff for Visalia Times-Delta
- “3 Arrested in Killing: Yoga Teacher shot on Trail in Marin County” by Sudhin Thanawala and Paul Elias for The Desert Sun
- “Golden Gate Park Slaying Tied to Death of Marin Hiker” by Jonah Owen for The San Francisco Examiner
- “3 Held in Yoga Teacher’s Slaying: Hundreds of Tips From Social Media Helped Lead to The Arrests” by Joseph Serna for The Los Angeles Times
- “Suspects Tied to SF Slaying” by Gary Klien for The Sacramento Bee, October 10, 2015 via Newspapers.com
- “Gun Used In Bay Area Killings Had Been Stolen” by Veronica Rocha and Joseph Serna for The Los Angeles Times
- “Police: Trio Used Stolen Gun to Rob, Kill 2 People” by Janie Har and Paul Elias for The Desert Sun
- “Drifters Could Face Death” by Joseph Serna for The Los Angeles Times
- “Trio Charged With 2 Murders: County DA’s Office Will Prosecute Drifters for Both Fairfax and SF Slayings” by Gary Klien for The Sacramento Bee
- “3 Charged with Killing Tourist, Yoga Teacher to be in Court” by Staff for Visalia Times-Delta
- “Judge Postpones Trio’s Arraignment” by Jonah Lamb for The San Francisco Examiner
- “A Jarring Name: Hiker’s Slaying Prompts Move to Rename Gunshot Fire Road” by Gary Klien for The Sacramento Bee
- “No Please Yet By Suspects in 2 Homicides” by Gary Klien for The Sacramento Bee
- “Arraignment Set in Fairfax, SF Slayings” by Gary Klien for The Sacramento Bee
- “Trio Plead Not Guilty to Murder, Robbery” by Jonah Lamb and Michael Barba for The San Franscisco Examiner
- “Slaying” by Staff for The Sacramento Bee
- “Backpacker Said To Plead Guilty For Life Before Golden Gate Park Killing” by Vivian Ho for The San Francisco Chronicle
- “Widow Devastated After Memorial Is Dismantled” by Gary Klien for The Sacramento Bee
- “New Name Picked For Path Near Gun Slaying” by Gary Klien for The Sacramento Bee
- “Trio of Drifters In Murder Trial Will Not Face Death Penalty” by Jonah Lamb for The San Francisco Examiner
- “Man Accused in Killing of Camper, Yoga Teacher Pleads Guilty, Gets Plea Deal” by Paul Elias for The Associated Press
- “Northern California Widow of Slain Yoga Teacher Testifies” by Staff for Tulare Advance-Register
- “Judge Allows Media In Courtroom for Drifters Charged in 2015 GGP Slaying” by Jonah Lamb for The San Francisco Examiner
- “Detective Testifies GG Park, Marin Murder Suspect Changed Her Story” by Jonah Owen Lam for The San Francisco Examiner
- “Triggerman Still Unknown In Norcal Double-Murder Case” by Jonah Owen Lam for The San Francisco Examiner
- “Gruesome Details From Nor Cal Killings Emerge In Court” by Jonah Owen Lam for The San Francisco Examiner
- “Drifters Plead Guilty To 1st Degree Murder In 2015 Marin, SF Killings” by staff for KPIX News
- “Drifters Plead Guilty in Golden Gate Park, Marin Trail Murders” by Jonah Lamb for Bay City News and The San Francisco Examiner
- “Transients Plead Guilty in Bay Area Slaying of Tourist, Yoga Teacher” by Paul Elias for The Associated Press
- “Trio Sentenced In Murders Of Golden Gate Park Tourist, Marin Therapist” by Bay City News
- “Marin Drifter Killers Given Lengthy Prison Sentences” by staff for KPIX News
- “3 Drifters Sentenced for Murders of Tourist, Therapist” by Staff for Bay City News via The San Francisco Examiner
- “America’s Lost Street Kids: The Scapegoating of Trouble Youths” by Vivian Ho for The Guardian
- Golden Gate Park Info
Hi park enthusiasts…
I’m your host Delia D’Ambra. The case I’m going to share with you today is a wild one.
Wild for so many reasons, but for me, I think it’s probably one of the most depraved, violent, and senseless stories of murder I’ve researched so far this season.
It involves three suspects, all incredibly young people, who chose to mare beautiful recreation areas in California’s San Francisco Bay area with two heartless murders.
Their homicidal rampage involved a strange love triangle, drugs, guns, and stolen cars that left authorities following a trail of breadcrumbs far into the Pacific Northwest.
The path of murder started in Golden Gate Park in downtown San Francisco. This park is super popular and hosts millions of visitors a year. It’s a haven of nature, historic buildings, and special events set in the heart of one of America’s major cities.
One minute you can be crossing a busy street with traffic and the next your surrounded by beautiful trees.
I actually went here on my honeymoon back in 2019 and loved that I was surrounded by nature but could easily buy food or drink from a street vendor if we wanted.
The other park tied to this story is the Loma Alta open space preserve just north of Golden Gate Park.
This spot is much more secluded. A lot of people use the trails there to get away from city life and camp. At the highest point, you can stand almost 1,200 feet and look down into the bay area.
During the summer Loma Alta gets super-hot and there are few places to find shade, so most people don’t stay all day, they go for short morning or evening walks.
In October 2015, Sean Angold, Morrison Lampley, and Lila Alligood took two lives in these park areas…
And forever changed two families and how Northern Californians look at youth wandering the streets of San Francisco.
This is Park Predators.
*Facebook messenger sounds*
On Sunday, October 4th, 2015 Isabelle Tremblay and a man named Benoit Huot were messaging online.
Isabelle and Benoit had known each other for years and their families were pretty close. As they message, they’re discussing how Isabelle’s 23-year-old daughter Audrey Carey’s backpacking trip is going. Audrey had been gone for over a week and Isabelle has been keeping in touch with her regularly as she traveled up America’s West Coast.
Audrey left her and her mother’s home in the suburbs of Montreal in mid-September to spend two weeks adventuring around California and the Pacific Northwest. Isabelle knew the trip was something her daughter had been planning for months and because Audrey was somewhat of a free-spirit and what her mother called “a hippie on the side”, Isabelle knew the adventure was going to be right up Audrey’s alley.
Audrey had spent the previous summer planting trees and staying busy with volunteer work. So, taking the time to see the world for herself was definitely a dream of hers.
The weekend Isabelle and Benoit were messaging was supposed to be the start of Audrey’s last week in the U.S before returning home to Canada.
According to the San Francisco Examiner, Benoit and Isabelle signed off for the night…but the very next morning Benoit received a message from Isabelle that read… quote— “my daughter was found dead” –end quote.
Two days before Benoit received that shocking message from Isabelle, a person walking inside of Golden Gate Park in the heart of downtown San Francisco, California, three thousand miles away from Montreal, had found a woman’s lifeless body in the woods.
According to multiple news reports, around 9:15 in the morning on Saturday, October 3rd, the passerby walking near some woods along Golden Gate Park’s Golf Course discovered the woman’s bloody body lying face down in the dirt. The corpse was still clothed but was abandoned on the outskirts of a temporary music festival site. She’d sustained gruesome injuries to her head.
The previous night had been the first night of the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in Golden Gate Park. There had been people everywhere. The first few artists had performed and the concerts went well into Friday night.
On Saturday morning, when the body was found, people were already making their way to the event site just off the park’s iconic John F. Kennedy Drive for day two of the festival.
The disturbing scene was reported about two hours before more artists were scheduled to start performing.
Within minutes of paramedics and police arriving on scene, detectives roped off the area.
The spot is one of the most traveled attractions in San Francisco. It’s right around the corner from the famous San Francisco Zoo and Golden Gate Bridge.
According to the San Francisco Examiner police investigators realized right away that they were most likely dealing with a homicide.
From the looks of it, the victim had suffered severe wounds to her skull. The newspaper reported that detectives found a cell phone and ID card on the body. The driver’s license indicated the young woman was 23-year-old Canadian tourist, Audrey Carey. Because Audrey’s injuries were so severe, they needed to compare dental records in order to confirm who she was for sure.
The next day the results came back as a match.
On Monday morning, San Francisco police notified Canadian authorities and officers broke the terrible news to Audrey’s mom, Isabelle.
The next day, Isabelle released a statement to Canadian news outlets saying how shocked and completely bewildered the family was to learn about Audrey’s murder. In the statement, she said quote– “Audrey was loved by so many people and was so full of life.”– end quote.
The family asked for privacy and declined to do any interviews with any media in the wake of the murder.
At the start of their investigation, San Francisco police were tightlipped about the case. They didn’t provide any updates or indicate they had any suspects. They even allowed the music festival to continue.
All they would say is that it appeared Audrey had been shot or beaten and that the brutal crime appeared to be isolated to where she was found near the edge of the golf course.
There was no evidence indicating she’d been killed somewhere else and then dumped there.
When news of the killing made headlines, several people came forward reporting they’d seen Audrey walking around the first night of the bluegrass festival with two men and another young woman. Some reports even indicated that Audrey was camping in the park during the event. After Friday evening, no one reported seeing her again.
The Hardly Strictly festival stretched out over six stages and tens of thousands of people were coming and going from the free event the first night it was going on. Police had little to work off of and spent most of the weekend sorting through the tips and information coming in from concertgoers.
They were also trying to work with Canadian authorities to get more information about Audrey’s background and determine if she’d recently had any run-ins with people back home in Montreal or while she’d been on her trip.
They learned that so far she’d reported nothing urgent to her family and was fully committed to returning home in a few days. According to Isabelle, Audrey had plans to camp in Golden Gate Park for the weekend, then spend a few more days in San Francisco before flying home. Her family told police that Audrey already had another backpacking trip to Europe planned for the upcoming winter.
On Monday, October 5th, right as investigators were working at full steam on Audrey’s murder…another shocking murder happened about 20 miles North of San Francisco in a neighboring recreation area called the Loma Alta Open Space Preserve.
This crime got San Francisco police investigators’ interest almost immediately.
Loma Alta is in a pretty affluent San Francisco neighborhood called White Hall. The trails in the preserve are heavily trafficked by bikers and walkers. Most of the open space areas provide scenic views of the Bay Area.
Around 6:00 pm on October 5th, two days after Audrey’s body was discovered, hikers walking near Old Railroad Grade trail inside of the preserve found a wallet laying on the side of the road. They picked it up and saw blood on it. Right away, they called the police.
Around that same time, another group of hikers walking a few hundred yards away found a man and his dog lying in pools of blood on the side of the dusty trail.
The man, who looked to be in his 60’s, was not breathing and a Doberman pinscher on a leash lying next to him was heaving and whimpering.
Marin County Sheriff’s deputies immediately responded to the scene and realized the bloody wallet and the dead man were likely linked. Investigators opened the wallet and discovered it was covered in blood and contained bullet holes with fresh blood smeared on one side.
The ID behind the plastic flap belonged to 67-year-old Steve Carter, a therapist from nearby Fairfax, California.
At the crime scene, Steve’s Doberman that had the name tag “Coco” was on her last leg..but was still alive. She heaved labored breaths and her head was soaked in blood. The dog was clipped to her leash and the other end was still clutched in Steve’s hand. Coco had been shot once in the eye and the bullet had passed through her skull and exited the left side of her head.
Miraculously though, she survived and humane society volunteers rushed her into emergency surgery to remove her eye.
Detectives looking over Steve’s body found several .40 caliber shell casings were scattered around him and where Coco had been laying. Police believed the bullets likely belonged to a handgun the killer had used.
Detectives knew just from looking at Steve that he hadn’t been dead long. For one, his injuries and blood loss looked fresh. Second, Marin County 911 dispatchers had received a call about gunshots being fired in the area roughly 45 minutes before the hikers found Steve’s body.
When deputies examined Steve’s body, the only other things missing from his person besides his wallet were car keys. When they checked the Old Railroad Grade trail parking lot they discovered that Steve’s silver 2003 Volkswagen Jetta Station Wagon was missing. They worked on the assumption that whoever had gunned him down had stolen it after the shooting.
So, deputies were working with basically an in-progress crime and knew that whoever had shot Steve and his dog down couldn’t be too far away…an hour or so at most.
Marin County Sheriff’s Deputies quickly mobilized, notified Steve’s wife Lokita and his brother Michael. The Carters were devastated as you can imagine.
Steve and Lokita had been married for 17 years and were originally from Northern California. The couple had moved to Costa Rica a year earlier but returned to Fairfax when Lokita was diagnosed with breast cancer.
At the time of Steve’s death, she was in the middle of her cancer fight and announced on her chemotherapy GoFundMe page how horrified she was to learn Steve had been murdered.
She wrote, quote— “I am beyond devastated to face this situation while already through intensive breast cancer treatment. His senseless and shocking death is incomprehensible to all of us. Please hold Steve and me close to your hearts and in your prayers. I am shattered, shocked, enraged and so, so sad.”– end quote.
She went on to write that Steve had been on his usual evening walk with Coco inside the preserve when he was attacked.
Monday night going into Tuesday morning, detectives working Steve’s case started gathering eyewitness statements and surveillance video from every store and business around Loma Alta preserve.
Their best lead came when several people called in to report they’d seen a suspicious group of young people on the trail around the time Steve was killed. The reports stated that the group included two young white men and a young white woman with sandy blonde hair. They were all wearing dark-colored clothing and appeared to be homeless.
Just as those reports were coming in, authorities found surveillance images of two men and a woman matching that description at a nearby gas station. The images were timestamped for 3:00 pm. So, right before the slaying.
As deputies widened out their surveillance video search they found another clip of the same suspicious young people at a gas station in Point Reyes, California. That sighting was timestamped for just after 6:30 pm. Shortly after Steve was killed.
*Car engine idling*
The video showed the group pulling up to the store in a silver 2003 Volkswagen Jetta station wagon. The same car that authorities knew had been stolen from Steve after his murder.
As soon as investigators got the images downloaded from the stores, they blasted the pictures to the media and asked people to call in if they saw the trio.
According to reports, while that was happening, Steve’s autopsy results had come back.
The medical examiner determined he’d died from three close-range .40 caliber gunshots. One bullet entered his head, another tore through his abdomen and the final shot went into his thigh.
Steve’s last few moments on this earth were likely excruciating and terrifying. He didn’t die immediately. He slowly bled to death, alone on the dirt trail with Coco bleeding and injured next to him. A horrific way to go.
On Wednesday morning October 7th, Lokita and several of Steve’s friends visited the spot on the trail where he’d been found and started building a memorial with flowers and pictures. The authorities were working quickly to try and get the family some answers and find Steve’s shooter.
One clue that really stuck out to detectives was that they’d found bits of what appeared to be US currency embedded in some of Steve’s wounds. Because no money was found on his body, investigators knew this likely meant he’d been robbed on the trail. Not only that, whoever his shooter was had fired one of the shots through the wallet first while it was still in Steve’s pocket or hand.
Detectives visited the gas station in Point Reyes where the surveillance video showed the suspicious young people stopping in Steve’s car just 30 minutes after the murder.
They interviewed the clerk and learned that when the trio had stopped they’d hurried into the store, went straight to the bathroom then emerged and purchased cigarettes, gas, and two bags of potato chips. When they went to pay with a $20 bill, the clerk noticed that the money was torn and wet. Like it had just been washed.
The clerk said when he asked one of the young men why the money was wet, the guy answered the quote — “My mom washed money in my clothes”—end quote.
The clerk thought it was weird but rang the group up and watched them leave.
According to The Los Angeles Times, in the first 36 hours of working the case, hundreds of tips about the group of suspicious young people had come into authorities.
In addition to that, deputies had been able to crack into the GPS tracking system installed in Steve’s station wagon. That allowed deputies to follow its movements North through California and into Oregon.
The car’s data showed it had been driven for 600 miles and stopped a few times at a Mcdonald’s, a few more convenience stores, and eventually parked at a church.
By Wednesday morning October 7th, Marin County authorities were closing in on the car in Portland. Police officers there arrived at the church which was offering food and shelter for homeless people. Investigators found the disheveled and unbathed trio outside of the soup kitchen getting into Steve’s station wagon.
At a press conference later that afternoon Marin County authorities announced they’d arrested 24-year-old Sean Angold, 23-year-old Morrison Lampley, and 18-year-old Lila Alligood for robbery and Steve’s murder.
The trio were drifters and had no known addresses or ties to Steve other than the fact that they’d been seen in the same recreation area around the time of Steve’s murder. Portland authorities held the suspects in custody while Marin County deputies made their way to Oregon to interview them.
According to The San Francisco Examiner when detectives arrested Morrison, Lila and Sean they found a .40 caliber Smith and Wesson pistol in Morrison’s waistband. Volunteers at the Portland church told officers that staff had to repeatedly ask the trio to stop smoking in the building and while they were there had been offering other guests an opportunity to buy a silver station wagon.
When detectives searched the station wagon they turned up even more incriminating evidence but not related to Steve’s death.
The items stained with blood tossed in the back seat belonged to an all-too-familiar Northern California murder victim…
Inside Steve Carter’s stolen Volkswagen station wagon that Morrison Lampley, Sean Angold, and Lila Alligood had gone on the run-in, police found a blue backpack, a tent, sleeping bag, a passport, and airline tickets.
The plane tickets and passport belonged to 23-year-old Audrey Carey.
Before that moment, investigators had no real reason to suspect Audrey and Steve’s murders were connected.
The victims were both completely different ages. Found in totally separate parts of Northern California, murdered on different days and nothing about their lives or backgrounds indicated they knew one another or had any friends or enemies in common.
After arresting Sean, Morrison, and Lila, and searching Steve’s car, San Francisco police and Marin County authorities started working together.
The agencies compared the handgun and bullets that were found on Morrison to the casings crime scene techs had collected near Audrey’s body. The shells were a match.
It was clear, the gun that had killed Audrey Carey was the same one used to murder Steve Carter.
Authorities later announced that the handgun also matched the make and model of a firearm a truck owner in San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf neighborhood had reported stolen on the evening of October 2nd, the same night police believed Audrey was killed and left in the woods. The owner of the gun, a man named Toney Chaplin, told authorities that he’d left the gun in his truck with the doors unlocked.
On Thursday, October 8th, San Francisco Police and Marin County detectives announced to the press that the two murder cases were officially linked and all three suspects would be charged with additional counts of robbery and murder.
Since late Wednesday night detectives for both agencies had been interviewing the suspects about both murders and learning a lot of new information.
What they’d learned was that all Sean, Morrison, and Lila had been in Golden Gate Park with Audrey on Friday night before her death. Eyewitnesses from the bluegrass event also later positively identified Morrison, Sean, and Lila as the people who’d been walking around with Audrey during the bluegrass festival. Several witnesses claimed to see the trio smoking marijuana in the woods that evening.
A week after the arrests, prosecutors in Marin County charged all three suspects with first-degree murder, and additional counts of grand theft, animal cruelty, and possessing stolen property.
During police interviews with Lila and Sean, authorities determined that Morrison was the person who pulled the trigger in both murders. He was charged with additional crimes for being the alleged shooter.
According to reporting by The Desert Sun, Morrison had a criminal history going as far back as 2010 for possessing a firearm in a park, vandalism, stealing a car, and stealing a dog. For those crimes, the court had sentenced him to time served.
When both murders occurred, he was technically a convicted felon, so he faced a few other additional charges on top of murder for being a felon in possession of a firearm.
The Marin County DA initially slapped all of the defendants with what’s called a special circumstance add-on for the first-degree murder charge. The special circumstance basically meant that because the trio had laid in wait to commit Steve’s murder…the nature of the homicide qualified them for the death penalty.
The courts had to come to an agreement about where the capital murder trials would take place.
Technically Audrey and Steve were murdered in two different California jurisdictions. After a bit of back and forth, San Francisco police and Marin county deputies decided to try the defendants in Marin County Superior Court.
According to The Sacramento Bee, it was common practice for Marin county prosecutors to handle major cases that involved crimes in neighboring counties. In 2013 prosecutors in Marin had won convictions for a death penalty case involving a serial killer. So, everyone felt pretty confident that Morrison, Lila, and Sean would be convicted.
Also, Marin County had more public defenders who had experience representing clients who were facing the death penalty. None of the defendants had money to pay for private attorneys so they had to take the lawyers the court appointed them.
Immediately after authorities booked the suspects in Marin County, defense attorneys for each of the suspects requested delays to review evidence and push their clients’ arraignments.
In late November 2015 Morrison, Lila and Sean finally stood before a judge and all of them pleaded not guilty to the charges against them.
During that time Marin County parks department renamed the road next to the trail where Steve Carter was killed. At the time of his death, the road was called “Gunshot Fire Road.”
In light of the horrible nature of Steve’s death, citizens felt that the street should be renamed. Within a few months of the crime, Marin County renamed the road “Sunrise Fire Road.”
Strangely, in January 2016 the Sacramento Bee reported that someone had taken down the flower and picture memorial Lokita had built at the spot where her husband died and it wasn’t like some of the stuff had just blown away ..when I say the memorial was taken down…like, everything was taken.
Photos, candles, flowers, balloons, ribbons…everything. The Marin County Park department claimed none of their staff removed the shrine and no one ever came forward to explain what happened. Lokita was really distraught about the memorial and to this day, it remains a mystery.
A few months later, in March 2016, the Marin County district attorney announced that he would no longer be pursuing the death penalty against Lila, Morrison, and Sean. The announcement was controversial, but he assured the public that, if convicted, all three of the young people would face life in prison without the possibility of parole.
He had to eat his own words though because two months later, in May, the DA made another bold announcement…
Sean Angold, the eldest of the three defendants had accepted a plea deal.
Prosecutors had offered him the chance to admit to second-degree murder for being involved in Steve’s death. By taking the deal Sean was guaranteed he’d only go to prison for 15 years. In exchange for less prison time, he would testify at trial against Lila and Morrison.
According to KPIX news, Sean admitted to using LSD, heroin, and meth with Morrison and Lila leading up to the killings. He told investigators that he was the one who stole the Smith and Wesson handgun from the parked truck in downtown San Francisco on the evening of October 2nd. He also admitted to planning a string of robberies with Lila and Morrison.
According to Sean, Audrey and Steve were just easy targets.
He denied being the trigger man in both murders. He said Morrison had fired the shots that killed Audrey and Steve. In an affidavit, Sean explained that during the attack on Audrey he’d walked away from the wooded spot and minutes later heard gunshots. When he asked Morrison what had happened in the woods, Morrison told him a quote— “She’s dead dude, don’t worry about it.”—end quote.
Sean told investigators that when Steve was murdered he’d been further down the trail than Morrison and Lila with his back turned. He heard several gunshots ring out and then the couple ran up to him with Steve’s keys and wallet in hand.
According to Vivian Ho’s reporting, more details of both murders came out in a preliminary hearing right after Sean took his plea deal.
The prelim hearing was scheduled to last two weeks. Both sides planned to present witnesses and evidence. Then the decision would be up to the judge of whether or not to let the case go to a jury.
As prosecutors laid out their case. They spent a lot of time emphasizing the lives of the two murder victims.
Steve Carter was not only beloved by his wife, but he was beloved by his tantra students. For decades he and Lokita had built a business focused on massage therapy and yoga. Their business, The Ecstatic Living Institute, offered classes to couples who wanted to learn more about compassion, love, and rejuvenating their sex lives.
Steve and Lokita produced and sold DVDs and books related to their business and had a thriving practice with dozens of clients. Shortly before his murder, wildfires had burned the business to the ground, and the Carter’s were forced to relocate and rebuild.
On top of that, when Lokita was diagnosed with breast cancer while the couple was living in Costa Rica, Steve had stopped everything he was doing and moved them back to California to make sure his wife got the best care at Marin General Hospital cancer clinic. She was just a few months into her treatments when Steve was killed.
Lokita testified at the hearing and walked the court through the last time she saw her husband alive.
According to the Tular Advance-Register, Steve left the couple’s home near the Loma Alta Preserve around 3:30 pm on October 5th. She hugged and kissed him goodbye and watched him get into his station wagon with Coco. The two were headed out for their daily evening walk.
A few hours later she learned that he’d been robbed, shot, and left for dead on one of his favorite hiking trails inside the preserve.
Before any more witnesses could speak, the hearing was abruptly continued and rescheduled to September 2015. Defense attorneys argued that the public and media being allowed to attend the hearing would create a prejudiced jury pool and hurt their client’s rights to a fair trial.
According to The San Francisco Examiner, when the case was back in court that fall, nearly a year after the crimes, the media was allowed inside the proceedings.
By that time, both Morrison and Lila had completely transformed their appearances.
Long gone was Lila’s matted and dreaded blonde hair. Morrison, who’d originally had a shaved head that revealed his neck tattoos, had grown his hair out and was wearing eyeglasses. Both defendants had gained weight and no longer appeared to be using drugs.
Prosecutors knew the defense was trying to paint the pair as innocent youths.
The DA pressed on and told jurors what a loss Audrey and Steve’s families had suffered as a result of the trio’s actions.
When it was the defense attorney’s turn, they came at the prosecution head-on and tried to undercut the state’s star witness. Sean Angold.
Morrison’s lawyers laid out a narrative that painted Sean as the group’s ringleader. Not Morrison.
Lila’s attorney tried to distance her, the youngest of the trio, from Sean and Morrison. They claimed Lila had never been a part of any robbery plans or murder plots. She was simply caught in a bad situation with two manipulative older young men, one of which was her boyfriend.
According to Jonah Lamb’s reporting, Lila and Morrison met when she was just 12 years old and he was 17. They quickly became inseparable and Lila claimed she would do anything for him.
I definitely feel safe saying this was a typical case of teenage obsession… versus real love. Lila was still a child when she became involved with Morrison, a much older teenage boy, who clearly didn’t think it was weird to be romantically involved with a young girl.
It’s worth noting that it’s completely possible Lila could have been a victim of grooming by Morrison.
She was so attached to him in an unhealthy way, to the point that she did whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted. There is no doubt that he had serious emotional control over her.
In court though, the DA argued that the relationship did not appear to be a case of grooming and he believed Lila was able to know right from wrong.
Her defense attorneys argued that the couple’s young love grew stronger and stronger as they continued their relationship and bonded over drug use. By the time Lila turned 18 the two were full-blown drug users with no plans to quit. According to news reports, they both used different kinds of drugs but their drug of choice was methamphetamine.
By late September 2015, they were both homeless and drifting from place to place with no homes or families that wanted them.
That’s when they met 24-year-old Sean. Sean had reportedly picked the couple up while they were hitchhiking to San Francisco from San Diego on California State Highway 1.
At the time, Sean went by the name “Smalls” and was a known meth dealer and user in and around San Francisco. Not long after picking Lila and Morrison up, the three began smoking meth together and drifting from place to place in neighborhoods throughout downtown.
According to court transcripts, about a week or so of using drugs and couch surfing, the trio befriended Audrey Carey in Golden Gate Park.
The San Francisco Chronicle reported that during the hearing a Detective Discenza from Marin County Sheriff’s Office testified that a woman had come forward not long after the murders and told detectives that on October 3rd she’d seen Lila with two men in a bar called Lucky 13 not far from the music festival site.
This witness said that she remembered Lila because of all the scabs and sores she had on her face.
If you look at Lila’s early mug shots you’ll see exactly what this witness described. Lila had large red scabs and scars all around her cheeks and mouth. It’s a super distinguishing characteristic as far as mug shots go. Sores like this are often a telltale sign of meth use. The witness told police that when they asked Lila why she had all the sores, Lila just started twirling around and dancing.
When Lilas’ mugshot came out later, the witness came forward because she recognized Lila’s distinct picture.
The witness said while inside Lucky 13 Lila tried to use a credit card to close out her tab at the bar but it was declined. The bar was one of those places that only took cash, so Lila was out of luck. The witness says Lila cocked an attitude with the bartender, clearly upset she couldn’t charge the bill on the card, then walked outside.
Detectives who went by the bar later to follow up ended up finding a folded-up credit card inside a booth. It belonged to Audrey.
Detective Discenza also testified that during her first interview with detectives, Lila admitted to investigators that the group robbed and murdered Audrey.
Shortly before meeting up with the Canadian, Sean and Morrison had broken into a truck in San Francisco and stolen a gun out of it. They then went to the music festival area and met up with Audrey, intending to rob her by the end of the night.
Lila confessed that just moments before the murder Audrey had smoked meth with them in the woods and thanked the trio for being friends with her while she traveled abroad. According to Audrey’s toxicology report, that much of what Lila had said was true. There were traces of meth in her system after her autopsy.
Lila told investigators that while in the secluded area of woods near the golf course, she jumped on top of Audrey’s chest and straddled her. Morrison then held a gun to Audrey’s head, right next to her left ear, and threatened to kill her.
The group, including Sean, attempted to tie her feet and hands up with rope. The information about the rope was unknown to the public and victim’s family up until that point, but during the hearing, investigators revealed that crime scene techs had found loosely tied rope around Audrey’s ankles.
Lila told police that the plan all along had been to just tie her up and rob her. She was always going to be kept alive…but then things went wrong.
Lila said during the attack Audrey pleaded multiple times with the group to just take her belongings and leave her alive. According to Lila’s confession, Audrey screamed, quote— “Please don’t shoot me. Please Don’t shoot me.”
During her confession though Lila also told Detective Discenza that Audrey then changed her panicked plea to, quote— “Just kill me. Just kill me”—end quote.
Before Lila knew it, one of the men had pulled the trigger of the handgun and shot Audrey in the head.
After that, the group left her body in the woods and took off with the gun, her backpack, a credit card, tent, sleeping bag, passport, and plane tickets. They left behind $84 in cash and some of her other credit cards and her cell phone.
They also left behind some incriminating evidence that police found.
According to the criminologist that testified in court, crime scene techs found a black beanie near Audrey’s body. When they tested that item for DNA, samples came back as a match for both Morrison and Lila.
Even more damning forensic evidence that strengthened the DA’s case was that lab techs had positively identified Audrey’s blood on the stolen .40 caliber handgun. They’d also found Steve’s blood on Audrey’s blue backpack inside the station wagon.
Steve’s blood being on the backpack proved that Audrey had clearly been killed first, then Steve was murdered. That is the only way his blood would have ended up on Audrey’s belongings inside his station wagon.
As the prosecution prepared for trial they realized their biggest challenge was going to be proving who exactly fired the gunshots that killed Audrey and Steve. Based on what Sean had confessed to, it was Morrison who’d pulled the trigger in both murders.
But defense attorneys for Lila and Morrison flipped that right back on Sean and told jurors that Sean was a liar and he was actually the murderer.
Morrison and Lila’s attorneys aggressively defended their clients and said they were just Sean’s helpless pawns. They claimed Sean was the mastermind of the entire rampage and Morrison and Lila were complicit because they were fearful he would kill them.
To make matters worse, Lila at one point had told police two different versions of who had pulled the trigger during the crimes.
According to The San Francisco Examiner, in her first interview right after her arrest, Lila told Marin County Detective Discenza that Sean fired the gun that killed Steve and Audrey. She claimed that Sean was their ringleader and she and Morrison were afraid of him.
Not long after her arrest though she admitted to a cellmate that what she’d told police wasn’t the REAL truth.
Her cellmate told detectives that while in jail Lila had claimed that Morrison was actually the group’s leader and he’d fired the shots that killed both victims. Lila confessed to wanting to downplay her boyfriend’s involvement in the crimes in order to protect him. They’d been dating for two years leading up to the murders and she wanted to save him from a harsh punishment.
When this cellmate’s story about Lila pointing the finger at Morrison was introduced at a prelim hearing it obviously didn’t help Morrison’s defense attorneys. They were trying to argue that their client was in fact not guilty of two murders.
So, as they approached trial, their strategy changed. They now decided to attack the credibility of Lila’s cellmate. Which wasn’t that hard to do because the woman was a five-time convicted felon herself.
Morrison’s defense attorneys didn’t just have Lila’s cellmate to worry about either. Other witnesses who testified at preliminary hearings backed up claims that Morrison was the mastermind of the group.
According to the trial transcript, the clerk from the Point Reyes gas station that took the wet money from the trio testified that when Sean, Lila, and Morrison showed up at the store Morrison had been the one driving and was in control of the group’s money. He also appeared to be the one directing Sean and Lila what to buy and barking orders for them to hurry up.
Throughout all of this back and forth, the identity of who really fired the gunshots that killed Steve and Audrey was still a big question mark. One that prosecutors could not get a clear answer on.
A few months after the September 2015 prelim hearing, everything in the case changed.
For the third time, the Marin County DA once again made a big announcement.
KPIX news reported that in February of 2017, the Marin County district attorney had offered Lila and Morrison plea deals.
Both defendants accepted and agreed to plead guilty to two counts of first-degree murder for killing Steve Carter and Audrey Carey.
As part of his confession, Morrison admitted to pulling the trigger in both murders. He was sentenced to 100 years in prison.
Lila admitted to two counts of first-degree murder as well and was sentenced to 50 years to life in prison. In her admission to the court, she broke down in uncontrollable tears saying quote— “I feel so much guilt and shame for the wrongdoing and the horrible decision that I made…and I am so sorry. I’m sorry.”– end quote.
In the end, all three defendants, including Sean Angold, gave up the right to appeal their convictions.
The Marin County DA said in his announcement that offering the plea deals did not come easily. He consulted with Audrey and Steve’s families for weeks before everyone decided it was the best course of action.
According to reporting by The Guardian, at the sentencing hearing in April 2017, Morrison’s defense attorney David Brown calmly delivered parting words to the court regarding his client’s actions.
Brown emphasized that Morrison’s actions were horrific, but so too were the 24 years of life he’d experienced on earth prior to becoming a violent felon. Brown told the court that neglect, homelessness, abuse, and mental illness had deprived Morrison of everything a child needed in life.
Brown claimed that Morrison’s birth parents had dosed him with LSD as a toddler and by age 11 he started using hard drugs. His state of upbringing was so inhumane that child psychiatrists had once referred to his upbringing as quote— “feral”– end quote.
Brown told Audrey and Steve’s families that despite all of those things, there was still no excuse for Morrison’s actions.
Audrey’s mother, Isabelle, wrote a statement that prosecutors read in court. She called all of the defendants quote— “unspeakable monsters and proof that evil exists.”– end quote.
KPIX news reported that Lokita Carter gave a victim impact statement that read in part, quote— “The unbearable pain and grief and trauma that your actions have caused me have been too much to bear. In a drug-induced craze you became cold-blooded murderers, now, prepare to pay for it.”—end quote.
Two things that really resonate with me after all of the research I’ve done on this case are: one, these crimes were completely random. Audrey and Steve did not know their attackers and they could have been any one of us going to a music festival or out for an evening stroll walking our dog.
The senselessness of their murders still haunts citizens in Northern California today.
And just to emphasize how random their deaths are, according to The Guardian’s article that reported the FBI’s uniform crime statistics in 2017, only ten percent of all homicides nationwide involve strangers. Sadly, Steve and Audrey were in that ten percent.
The second thing that I’ve taken away from this story are the words Lokita wrote on her blog months after the sentencing.
I think this advice is something we should all follow in life, no matter whether we’re enjoying the outdoors or otherwise.
Lokita wrote, “May you celebrate each moment that life gives you, and may you love your beloveds as much as humanly possible every moment because we just never know when life will come to an end and that hug you gave each other might be the last one.”
Park Predators is an audiochuck Original Podcast.
Research and writing by Delia D’Ambra with writing assistance from executive producer Ashley Flowers.
Sound design by David Flowers.
You can find all of the source material for this episode on our website, Parkpredators.com.
So what do you think, Chuck? Do you approve? *howl*