Fort Benning Body Identified - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

12/23/03

Fort Benning Body Identified

A community's worst fears are confirmed tonight in the case of Dena Carter. Unidentified remains found last week in west Georgia are in fact hers. Police and friends involved in the search had hoped against hope this wasn't her and Carter was still alive. Now, two days before she was due to deliver a child, she's been found.

Forensic experts at the GBI crime lab in Atlanta confirmed late this afternoon that the remains found last week at Fort Benning do belong to Dena Carter. The 23-year-old disappeared September 11 when she left home to walk to the Georgia Southern library.

Suspicion arose immediately when investigators found also what they thought were bones of a unborn child.

Since the discovery last week, the days have been agonizing for those who took Carter into their congregation and into their hearts. WTOC has been following the story since Carter disappeared and was with some of those friends today. They'd been waiting to celebrate with her the birth of her child. They've spent the last six days not sure if they wanted hope or closure.

In the midst of turmoil, friend Diane Budgett sought comfort in her church. Everyone at Agape Worship Center wanted answers when, last week, hunters at Fort Benning discovered remains of a woman and unborn child. Tests have confirmed the remains were hers and a church's joy went from faded to shattered.

"We had planned a baby shower," said Budgett. "I was supposed to go be with her when she had the baby. We were excited about it."

She'd already bought a nursery full of things for the baby. Carter's adopted family in Statesboro had planned all year to spend this week waiting for a call. December 25, Christmas Day, is the date doctors gave Carter to deliver the daughter she'd already named Destiny.

Budgett says they've moved chairs in the sanctuary so Carter's seat doesn't seem like Carter's seat. Beyond that, its hard for anyone to see anything but Carter, no matter where they look.

As saddened as they are now, folks at Agape Worship Center said the thing they want most now is closure. As Budgett said today, it was hard to hold on to something that didn't seem to be there anymore.

Authorities called her mother this afternoon with the news. The people at Agape had tried to prepare her for this kind of news, but that only goes so far. No word on when or if she'll be back to Statesboro.

Reported by: Dal Cannady, dcannady@wtoc.com

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