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By Chris Gregory, Managing Editor

A Trousdale County man entered a guilty plea on Tuesday, Nov. 26 to a first-degree murder charge in the death of a Portland woman earlier this year.

Benjamen Timothy Carter, 23, of Hartsville, pleaded guilty before Judge Brody Kane in Wilson County Criminal Court to the shooting death of Bailey Donoho, 21, of Portland. Under the terms of the plea, Carter received a life sentence.

“In Tennessee, a life sentence is 60 years. It is a 100 percent sentence, which means there will be no parole or anything like that,” said Assistant District Attorney Jason Lawson, who was prosecuting the case along with ADA Ian Braddock.

Photo courtesy of Trousdale County Sheriff’s Department
Benjamen Carter pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison.

Charges of attempted first-degree murder, evading arrest and resisting arrest were dropped as part of the plea.

Lawson said Carter’s attorney contacted the DA’s office Monday afternoon and said his client was willing to accept a plea deal. Donoho’s family was consulted and agreed to the terms of the plea, according to Lawson.

“They were very satisfied with the life sentence and wanted to go forward with the plea,” Lawson said.

Lawson told The Vidette that Carter admitted to shooting Donoho and attempting to shoot a male acquaintance accompanying her on March 30 after a dispute arose in which Carter accused the pair of stealing his wallet.

According to Lawson, Carter threatened “that he would kill someone” if his wallet was not found. Carter had picked up the pair at a friend’s residence on Dalton Hollow Road and after the dispute, drove them to his father’s house on Browning Branch Road.

At that point, Carter pulled an AR-15 rifle out of the truck and fired three shots into the vehicle. Donoho was hit twice, while the acquaintance fled on foot.

The following afternoon, Carter’s father discovered the body while looking over his property for storm damage and notified authorities.

Investigators eventually discovered the rifle and truck, which had blood on the seats and damage consistent with gunshots, according to Lawson. Carter also reportedly admitted to family members while incarcerated that he had committed the crime.

“It was quite a bit of evidence, and because of that the defendant decided there was no point in having a trial,” Lawson said.

The investigation was conducted by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation along with the Trousdale County Sheriff’s Department.

“There were a lot of police man-hours put into this. The TBI, Trousdale County Sheriff’s Department and Wilson County Sheriff’s Office really did an outstanding job. The quantum of proof they gathered is what resulted in the plea,” Lawson said.

Carter has been in the Wilson County Jail since his March 31 arrest but will be transferred to the Tennessee Department of Corrections, which will determine where he will serve his sentence.

Reach Chris Gregory at 615-374-3556 or [email protected]