SHREVEPORT, La. -- If you set out to write this story as a movie, nobody would believe it. It’s a story of crime; murder, death and lives ruined.
And now, hopefully—a story of redemption; of climbing back; reclaiming that which has been lost. And ultimately as Hal Carter says, it’s a story about creating your own happiness.
“When I was a teenager there was a dire prediction about my life; that I would never be anything but a bum," Carter said.
Carter’s life did its best to live up to the prediction, including a spinal injury suffered in his early 20s, while working on an oil rig.
“The orthopedic surgeon said I was permanently disabled and would never lead a normal life again," Carter said.
Through perseverance and exercise, Carter fought back physically and by building a successful law practice. Then in 1989 it was like something out of a Hollywood murder mystery.
“I became a prime suspect in the Julie, Tom and Sean Grissom horrific murders in the Southern Hills area of Shreveport,” said Carter.
Julie Grissom was Carter’s girlfriend, the love of his life; Tom was her father; Sean, a nephew.
For 17 years, law enforcement was convinced he was the killer, despite credit card receipts and a plane ticket showing he was in Atlanta at the time of the murders.
“They were the ones who issued a press release on Thursday, Nov. 9,” Carter said. “That made many people, thousands of people in this area say, Hal Carter’s a prime suspect. My life was ruined. I lost my law practice and almost everything else I had to lose.”
In 2006, a serial killer named Danny Rolling was convicted of five killings at the University of Florida; evidence surfaced tying him to the Grissom murders.
“The Shreveport Police Department held a press conference a day or two after his execution to essentially confirm that he was the Grissom killer—and at least indirectly, clearing me," Carter.
Carter could breathe again; but his life was in pieces.
“People who met me wondered how I could seem to be genuinely happy after all I had experienced,” Carter recalled.
He decided to use that as motivation: “I said, well I’ll start doing motivational speaking.”
But that yielded mixed results.
“I became very frustrated because even in a 90-minute motivational talk, I did not have nearly the time to go into the depth of what I’d learned," Carter said.
Carter was floundering again. What to do? During the frenzy surrounding his case, he received many offers for movie and book deals; he turned them all down. Tough to do with no money coming in.
“I considered the offers, but I ultimately decided I was going to write a book and screenplay myself, because I wanted it to be true," Carter.
‘When Tomorrow Never Comes’ -- the true story of the murder case -- should be done by the end of the year. Meanwhile, Carter’s releasing another book on Amazon entitled ‘Trials by Fire.’
“My improbable journey to happiness,” Carter said. "It’s a true story, health and wellness book about how almost anyone can overcome their own life challenges become the best they can be and earn real happiness.”
There are three main premises to ‘Trials by Fire’: body, mind and spirit. Included in that discussion is self-esteem, which Carter says is the most important aspect of our psyches.
“Because it helps determine the poor or good decisions we make in life.” Carter said.
Rediscovering his spiritual connection after the murders was a little harder.
“I lost all faith in God,” said Carter. “I lost all faith in my Christian religion.”
But over time, as Carter thought back to the night of the murders, he remembered awakening from a dream about Julie with a start. In that dream she came to him to talk about their relationship -- this was before he knew what happened.
“Well, if this dream was actually a spiritual contact from Julie, then that implies there really is life after death; and that also implies there really is a God," Carter said.
And that helped provide the impetus for Carter to write his books.
“Both are despite a lot of pain, anguish and murder in both of them both are very uplifting; positive; inspiring stories.”
But, until now, Carter’s stories remained relatively untold.
“It would be easy for me to look back and say, what if I just sold my story rights years ago; I wouldn’t be financially struggling like I am today,” Carter said. "But I have a passion. I have an absolute passion to share this story because I know how much it will help people. That means more to me than the money I could have gotten years ago.”
‘Trials by Fire’ currently set to be released about Aug. 1. It’ll be available on Amazon.com. Barnes and Noble and other book stores.