13-year-old forced to move body of mother’s sister, docs say; Mom charged with capital murder

Surveillance video shows clues in the case

HOUSTON – A woman charged with capital murder in connection with the death of her own sister is accused of enlisting her 13-year-old son to help move the body, court documents show.

Carmen White, 38, is now in custody. Authorities have accused her of of shooting her sister, Cynthia Cervantes, multiple times and then dumping the body at the end of a dirt road in the 3500 block of Cherry Street in Houston and setting it on fire.

Cervantes’ body, documents show, was found on April 1. Authorities said in documents that they believe she was shot several times -- including once in the back of the neck which severed her spinal cord -- before she was set on fire. Authorities said the killing happened on March 31.

Authorities said video from a nearby business showed White’s vehicle where the body was dumped.

Documents indicated a potential motive for the killing: A witness said he knew White made a terroristic threat against her in February when White was arrested and found to have meth in her possession. The witness said White was “very angry” about Cervantes calling police, having to go to jail and her previous car being towed and not being able to recover it from the tow lot. He said he found out about Cervantes’ death from others on April 8, documents show. The witness said White killed Cervantes in retaliation for criminal charges that were filed after Cervantes called the police.

Another witness claiming to be White’s former boyfriend told police White contacted him and said she needed help. That witness said White asked him to help move the body to her vehicle in exchange for sexual favors as payment. He said he saw Cervantes’ body wrapped in a garbage bag. Documents say the former boyfriend declined to help and asked White to take him and his current girlfriend back to the area where they were prior to being picked up.

Documents said White called her current boyfriend of three years on March 31 and said she was with her sister and that she wouldn’t be able to meet up with him as they had planned.

Records show that White’s 13-year-old son said his mother called him away from playing with his 12-year-old brother at the park and asked him to help her. She led him to a dumpster area and told him to move a bagged “unknown” item into her vehicle. Documents said he “reached down and lifted what felt like human legs so he dropped the legs back to the ground.” Documents say White became upset and demanded that he pick up the body and move it to her vehicle. He again resisted but his mother became “extremely aggressive” and feared what she may do to him so he gave in out of fear for his safety. He then went back to his apartment and went to sleep.

Documents show police identified White’s vehicle as a gray Chevrolet HHR with paper dealer tags and a distinctive dent on the driver’s side of the vehicle.

The first witness mentioned in the documents said White had become “paranoid” and “extremely nervous” around April 8 and was “insistent” on trading in her vehicle because she claimed the air-conditioning was not working.

About the Author:

Amanda Cochran is an Edward R. Murrow award-winning journalist. She specializes in Texas features, consumer and business news and local crime coverage.