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Less than 400 yards from where the body of Valerie Burns was found in her burning car lived the man detectives have charged with her murder.
Sheriff’s detectives arrested Carl Henry Alston, 35, on Thursday, Sept. 4, and charged him with murder. While in custody at the Brunswick County Detention Center under no bond Friday, Sept. 5, detectives charged Alston with first-degree rape and first-degree kidnapping.
Burns, 49, of Bluff Drive in Leland, was last seen early on the morning of July 30 leaving downtown Wilmington.
Hours later, around 3:30 a.m., fire responders and police responded to a vehicle fire, where they found Burns, dead in the trunk of the car off Goodland Road near Leland. Alston’s home is at 457 Colony Lane, 300-400 yards from where Burns’ body was discovered, Sheriff John Ingram said.
Throughout the investigation, sheriff’s detectives worked with the N.C. State Bureau of Investigation, the district attorney’s office and the SBI crime lab. Detectives continue to work with the Wilmington Police Department, Ingram said.
Alston’s felony conviction history dates back to 1991, and he was charged with misdemeanor larceny in 1989 and in 1990.
Alston’s criminal records include several larceny convictions, assault of a female, breaking and entering, possessing and receiving stolen goods, possession a schedule II controlled substance, and most recently, selling a schedule II controlled substance.
On June 22, Alston was released from the N.C. Department of Corrections after serving 14 months for possession of a schedule II controlled substance.
Thirty-eight days after Alston was released from prison, Burns’ body was found in her burning car.
According to the autopsy report, Burns was likely alive when the car was set on fire and the cause of death was carbon monoxide poisoning.
“Toxicological studies showed a lethal saturation level of carbon monoxide, an ethanol of 40 mg/dL (.04 BAC) and the presence of oxymorphone in high concentration,” the medical examiner states.
“In my opinion, this woman was alive at the time of the fire and died as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning from same. Heat and thermal injury may have also contributed,” the medical examiner states.
No evidence of other physical trauma or bullets was found, the medical examiner notes.
Though there was no injury to the skull, the medical examiner notes an indentation on her head, which suggests she tried to push herself out of the trunk as the lid was being closed.
Alston made his first appearance in Brunswick County District Court Friday. He remains under no bond at the detention center for the murder and was given a $300,000 bond for the rape and kidnapping charges.
Defense attorney Mike Ramos has been appointed to represent Alston.
Given the recent assaults on women in Wilmington, as well as Burns’ murder, Ingram reminds people violent crimes and other assaults can happen anywhere.
Ingram reminds people to focus on safety issues they might otherwise overlook.
“It’s paying attention, parking in a well-lit area, letting someone know where you’re at and where you should be,” Ingram said.