Risky business: Real estate agent's killing hits home for Realtors

The body of Arkansas real estate agent Beverly Carter was found near Cabot, about 20 miles from Little Rock.

Story highlights

  • The death of Beverly Carter, 49, has resonated among fellow real estate agents
  • One security expert describes it as a "drastic wake-up call"
  • "She was just a woman who worked alone -- a rich broker," suspect says
The suspect in the killing of Arkansas real estate agent Beverly Carter was asked this week by reporters: "Why Beverly?"
Arron Lewis, 33, answered directly.
"She was a rich broker," he said. "Because she was just a woman who worked alone -- a rich broker."
Authorities have said they believe Lewis was a stranger to Carter, 49, whose body was found Tuesday in a shallow grave near Cabot, about 20 miles northeast of central Little Rock, Arkansas.
In other words, she could have been anyone.
"I work as a team with my daughter. I just think it really made it hit home that it could have been her. It could have been me," said Karen Crowson, a broker and past president of the Arkansas Realtors Association.
Across the country, Realtors and agents are reeling in the wake of Carter's death. Messages to the family have poured in on social media, laced with something in addition to sympathy: a determination to make sure what happened to Carter doesn't happen again.
"We've just gotten lax," said Crowson, who works for the same firm as Carter did, and knew her. "We live in the South and tend to think everybody's a good person. We're not, by nature, suspicious."
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Of course, most of the time, people are good, and everything is fine.
"But it just takes one nut to take away a grandmother and mom," Crowson said.
'Drastic wake-up call'
Carter's death has already prompted changes in Crowson's office.
Going forward, the first meeting with a potential buyer will be required to be at the office, she said. Buyers will be asked for a copy of their identification and for some other information.
Such steps can help take "the power away from the criminal," said Tracey Hawkins, a former agent, and safety and security expert who teaches real estate professionals how to stay safe.
She said her services have been in high demand since Carter's death.
"My fear is, for a while, agents will be all shook up ... but what inevitably happens is everyone gets complacent," said Hawkins.
She mentioned at least six other attacks on agents this year. In one, the agent was raped; in another, he was beaten.
There have been other instances of high-profile killings.
In 2011, 27-year-old Ashley Okland was killed while showing a home in Iowa. A few years earlier, in 2006, Sarah Anne Walker was stabbed 27 times inside a model home in Texas.
Each time an attack makes the news, agents vow to change, and then the momentum is lost.
But Hawkins is hopeful.
"This has been a drastic wake-up call," she said about Carter's death. "I think they (agents) are finally realizing the danger is not going away."
'One's too many'
Carter was killed in September, "Realtor Safety Month," for the National Association of Realtors.
The group's president elect, Chris Polychron, has promised to make safety a priority when he takes office.
"We're not going to let it die, I can tell you that," he said. "It's sad that it took a tragic death of one of our own to run the red flag up."
The exact details of Carter's death are not yet known.
She called her husband Thursday afternoon to tell him where she would be.
When hours went by with no further word, Carl Carter said, he "knew something was wrong." He went to the address of the home Beverly Carter was showing and saw her brown Cadillac parked there.
Noticing the property was open, the husband entered and searched for his wife without success.
"If we can prevent this from happening to another Realtor or real estate agent, I hope we can do that," said Polychron. "One's too many."