As a school bus driver maneuvered down a narrow street, all he could see was “knees and elbows going everywhere.”
He stopped the bus and watched from about 30 yards away as a group fought on Mercer Street, which runs parallel to Napier Avenue near Brookdale Elementary School.
After calling for help, the bus driver told a detective he didn’t see what started the fight between John Conover and members of Alterese Carter’s family. He did see several people swinging baseball bats during the 2012 brawl.
At some point, Conover swung a bat and struck the 46-year-old mother. She fell back and hit her head on the pavement, the bus driver told the detective.
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Doctors later declared her brain dead, and Conover was charged with murder.
The bus driver’s account, along with several others is included in documents obtained by The Telegraph through an Open Records Act request. The request was filed after prosecutors dismissed the murder charge against Conover last month.
Including police reports and transcripts of official statements, the case file is relatively slim.
In a motion to dismiss the case, a prosecutor wrote she would be unable to overcome Conover’s claim of self-defense at trial due to insufficient evidence.
Essential witnesses from the victim’s family also had been uncooperative, according to the motion.
Conover, 51, was released from jail Jan. 28 after being held more than two years awaiting trial. He had a $40,000 bond.
Attempts to reach the Carter family and Conover were unsuccessful last week. A woman who answered the door at the Mercer Street address listed on Conover’s jail record said he no longer lived there.
Police records provide insight into the relationship between Conover and the Carters.
Alterese Carter’s husband, Leonard, told police his family had lived on Atlantic Avenue -- a road that intersects with Napier Avenue and connects to Mercer Street -- for a little more than a year before the fight.
Conover was one of the first people they met.
“He helped me move my washing machine and dryer because I was struggling,” Carter, 53, told a detective.
Several months before the fight, the Carters lent Conover a ladder, according to statements given by Leonard Carter and his two sons, then aged 13 and 14.
At about 4 p.m. Nov. 30, 2012, the family was driving home and spotted Conover walking down Mercer Street.
Trayvon, the 13-year-old son, got out of their van to ask Conover about the ladder while the rest of the family went down the street to their home.
But Conover told police the boy asked him about a cellphone charger, and Conover offered to give him $5 he owed for the device.
He said Trayvon started “yelling and cussing,” and he responded, “I’m not talking to no kid. I’ll talk to your parents.”
Trayvon maintained that the two got into an argument about the ladder and that Conover pushed him in the face.
He called his mother on the phone, and she soon arrived in the van with his 14-year-old brother, Jamaal.
Trayvon told police Conover grabbed his mother by the hair and punched her in the face as the argument continued. Leonard Carter, after hearing his wife yell, arrived.
Trayvon and Jamaal told police they retrieved two baseball bats from the family’s van to protect their mom.
Jamaal struck Conover in the head with the bat but was pushed to the ground and dropped the bat. Conover took the bat and swung once, striking Alterese Carter in the head. She fell backward to the pavement, both boys told police.
Conover told a different version of the events, saying Alterese, Jamaal and Leonard Carter all arrived in the van, each had a bat, and they attacked him.
He said he was punched and hit with a bat multiple times, but he only hit Alterese Carter with a bat one time.
She had tried to strike him with a bat, but he said he took it out of her hands and struck her in the shoulder -- not the head.
‘SHE WOULDN’T LET NOTHING HAPPEN TO THEM’
The boys and their father told detectives they formed a human shield, laying over Alterese Carter to protect her on the ground. They said Conover struck Leonard Carter in the back with a bat but walked off.
Conover admitted to police he considered striking Leonard Carter as he stood over him but says he walked away instead.
Leonard Carter and his sons loaded Alterese Carter into the van and took her to a local hospital.
A police officer later wrote in a report that the injured woman was unresponsive and connected to life support when he saw her.
Her hair was bloody, and she had a deep, inch-long cut near the base of her skull.
She didn’t appear to have any other injuries.
Leonard Carter had a red mark on his back consistent with being struck by a bat.
When Conover was interviewed at the Detective Bureau that night, he didn’t have any visible signs of injury. He “smelled strongly of an alcoholic beverage,” according to an officer’s report.
Speaking with a detective about his wife’s condition, Leonard Carter said doctors told him 80 percent of her brain was damaged.
“Even if she were to survive that kind of impact, she was gonna be a vegetable,” he said.
On the day after the fight, Carter told the doctors to take his wife off the machine that helped her breathe.
“I didn’t want her to suffer,” he said.
Alleging Conover had a history of beating women, he said, “All of it could have been avoided.”
Bibb County State Court records show Conover was found guilty of family violence-related simple battery in March 2012. He was sentenced to a year on probation.
Carter said his wife of 15 years sacrificed her life for her children.
“She had always said she would do that. ... Everybody knew that about her,” he said. “She wouldn’t let nothing happen to them in her power.”
Information from Telegraph archives was used in this report.