‘I heard screams,’ Md. boy tells 911 after parents’ killings

WASHINGTON — His voice breaking, the 10-year-old son of Candace and Calvin Carnathan tells an emergency dispatcher he just heard three gunshots.

Investigators served a protective order to Calvin Carnathan hours after his wife filed it before a District Court judge Friday, January 26. The next day the couple was found dead. (Courtesy Carnathan family)

The boy’s 911 call on the day of his parents’ murder-suicide was released to WTOP via a public information request.

“Something happened at our house. Something happened and we don’t know what,” the boy says when the Charles County dispatcher answers the phone.

During the recording, the boy tells the dispatcher his dad instructed him to call 911 the morning of Jan. 27. It was likely just moments before investigators said Calvin Carnathan shot and killed his wife before killing himself.

The dispatcher asks the child if he heard anything after hearing the three shots he described. The boy said, “I heard screams too. I think it was my mom.”

The day after Candace Carnathan sought a protective order against her husband, investigators say he returned and killed her before killing himself while their children were at home. April 3 would have been her 34th birthday.

The transcript records the child’s description of events.

Dispatcher: Do you hear any noises or anything?

Boy: No, not anymore.

Dispatcher: OK, what did you hear before?

Boy: Like, I think shooting. I don’t know.

After being served a protective order at 6 p.m. Jan. 26, Charles County Sheriff’s investigators said the Lanham father of three returned to his house once that night and again the next morning.

That’s when, the family told WTOP, he fired the same shotgun his wife alerted a judge he had access to in her temporary protective order.

“When he comes back, he’s clearly demonstrating he’s not going to comply with that piece of paper,” said Charles County State’s Attorney Tony Covington.

Domestic violence takes up 25 percent of the criminal docket in Charles County, Covington said.

A judge did not order sheriffs deputies to confiscate Carnathan’s weapon, as he had no prior violent offenses. Despite that, it’s impossible to predict how a domestic abuser will respond to a protective order, Covington said.

“When the victim finally stands up and says, ‘Hey I need help,’ and help is given, (in this) instance, a protective order, that is by far the most volatile time,” Covington said.

Most protective orders are not violated. Data from the Charles County Sheriff’s Department show between February 2016 and February 2017, there were 1,915 protective orders issued and 215 were violated.

In Maryland, it is up to a judge to decide whether weapons should be confiscated in a one-party initial hearing to issue the protective order, but some wait until they have both parties in the mandatory hearing scheduled days later.

WTOP reached out to the Carnathan family to let them know about the release of the 911 tapes.

“We’re grateful for all that you’re doing and the awareness that my sister’s case is bringing to the community … Today would’ve been my sister’s 34th birthday we’re hoping what happened to our family will never have to happen to another,” said Candace’s sister Sydney Miles in an email.

The family has an online fund for the Carnathan’s children’s education and counseling.

February 22, 2024 | 'You never know when you have the person who ... is going to do something very tragic,' Charles County State's Attorney Tony Covington said. (WTOP's Megan Cloherty reports)

Megan Cloherty

WTOP Investigative Reporter Megan Cloherty primarily covers breaking news, crime and courts.

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