Community Reacts to Arrest in GSU Student Murder

Michael Natson arrested for the murder of Dena Carter.
Michael Natson arrested for the murder of Dena Carter.

It's a case that shocked a lot of people and left a church family devastated. But Dena Carter's family and friends may be one step closer to finding closure.

Yesterday, the FBI arrested 24-year-old Michael Antonio Natson, Carter's boyfriend, and charged him with her murder. Carter hadn't been seen since September 11, 2003. She was six months pregnant at the time.

Three months later, hunters found her body in a remote location on Fort Benning, where Natson was an active-duty soldier at the time.

His arrest was not totally unexpected, but it's still a shock for those who knew Carter. Her family and friends, and the entire community, have been waiting so long for answers, but this was still difficult news to take.

Statesboro police detective Terry Briley has been in contact with Carter's mother, Diane Crooms, every week since she disappeared.

"I'm glad we finally got to this point, but my heart still goes out to her mother," Det. Briley said. "I've gotten to know her really well. She's a sweet lady and her heart is broken by it."

Hearts have been breaking, too, among Carter's church family at the Agape Worship Center, first with the news of her disappearance, then three months later, with the finding of her body, now with an arrest.

"Just the slow process is an agonizing state, because you want some answers and you want them quickly, because you're dealing with a person you care about," said Dr. Anthony Chavers.

Dr. Chavers knew Carter's boyfriend, Natson, well. "I tried to encourage him, lift his head up. But we never know what's going on in a person's head."

News of the arrest came as a shock and somewhat of a relief to Georgia Southern students, especially to those who live at the apartment complex that Dena Carter once called home.

GSU student Thomas Dean told us, "I'm glad to hear they made an arrest because, being a student down here, a lot of people have been wondering what's been going on."

"It makes me feel a little safer about living in the back of these apartments and about staying out here for grad school, because I know she was also a grad student," added student Shapala Fletcher.

Michael Natson was working as a military police officer at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama when he was arrested. He was indicted by a federal grand jury in Macon on June 16. He's also facing charges in the death of Carter's unborn child.

Police are not saying much about what led them to Natson, only that cell phone calls and evidence found at Fort Benning played a role in this investigation.

Natson will be back in court next week.

Reported by: Liz Flynn,