Kansas Cold Case: Carla Avery, Eric Avery, Tamesha Lee, Marvin Woods

Updated: Jul. 10, 2022 at 9:53 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - December 1, 2013, two boys out skateboarding a few blocks from the Washburn University campus made a horrific discovery: a woman dead behind a strip mall in the 1300 block of SW 21st. St.

The woman was Carla Avery. She was shot in the head, left behind the building; her car, parked in the car wash.

Pat McLaughlin, cold case investigators for the Shawnee Co. District Attorney’s Office worked for the Topeka Police Dept. back then, and was the first detective on scene.

“Officers then went to her home address which was in the 1600 block of SW Central Park. Upon arriving, they found some evidence that was very concerning, so at that time they called the Topeka Police response team to come out to the scene,” McLaughlin said.

Inside the house, they found three more people shot and killed: Carla’s ex-husband Marvin Woods; their friend Tamesha Lee; and Eric Avery, Carla’s brother and the father of Karmen Nard’s son.

“They were very beautiful people. They didn’t deserve what happened to them,” Karmen said. “I would describe Carla as a very loud, funny person. She had a big personality. She loved the kids.”

Four victims. More than eight years later, few answers.

“Somebody has to know something. Somebody knows something,” Karmen said.

McLaughlin said investigators do not believe the killings were random.

“The investigation led into people they knew, people they associated with. Probably in the hundreds, over 100 for sure of different people that officers and detectives have talked to over the years,” McLaughlin said. “We do believe the people involved are from this community, and that there are still people here that have direct knowledge of what happened - some of which we’ve probably already talked to, and we just need them to be more forthcoming and give us the information that we need.”

Karmen said the families are grateful the case is included in the Kansas Cold Case deck as the ace of diamonds. The playing cards will be distributed in Kansas prisons and jails in hopes someone sees the case - knows something - and says something.

“I just pray that wherever they are, that they pay. That their conscience eats them alive,” Karmen said. “If anyone knows about it, I pray that their conscience eats them alive to the point that they have to open their mouth and say something.”

McLaughlin said the biggest challenge in the case is cooperation.

“We do have evidence in this case, but we need a witness that is willing to do the right thing on just a horrible tragedy,” he said.

It’s a tragedy that left a little boy who’s now a young man without a father and an aunt. Karmen’s son earned his high school’s citizenship award, and is headed to college on a football scholarship this fall. At his graduation, he held large cut-out photos of Eric and Carla.

“Their spirits were with us but, his milestones that he’s reaching in his life - it’s just sad his family isn’t there to experience it with him,” she said.

Karmen says she understands fear and mistrust, but she hopes people understand one thing outweighs them all.

“It sounds so simple but it’s something so big - closure is something that the families need,” she said. “Imagine if it was your family. You wouldn’t want to go all these years. It’s about to be 10 years. You don’t want to go all these years with unanswered questions, raising kids that don’t have any closure. My son’s about to go to college. He needs to at least have the closure in his heart to know he’s at rest, they’re at rest.”

If you know anything about these killings - or any unsolved case - call the Kansas Bureau of Investigation at 1-800-KS-CRIME.

Prior KS Cold Case Profiles:

John Waller

Joshua Jernagin

Clarence “Butch” Lavin

Arthur Goebel

Gary Leo Nelson

Charles Giles

James Winston III

Mercedes Holford and Crystal Andrews

Tirell Ocobock

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