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HANCOCK COUNTY, MS (KCBD) – A Mississippi man stands indicted for arson and desecration of a corpse in the death of a west Texas woman. Natasha Carpenter, 30 died in September 2009. Authorities say Mark Anthony Rice, 48 of Kiln, admitted to killing her in California.

The Sea Coast Echo reports that Rice could be freed as early as February, because officials in California and Mississippi are not going to prosecute for murder. The newspaper reports that Rice was indicted on November 18, but it wasn’t made public until Monday. He had been charged with capital murder, but the Hancock County Grand Jury did not indict him for that, because the death did not occur in Hancock County.

Authorities told the newspaper that Carpenter was from Lubbock, but her obituary says she was born in Amarillo and attended Tascosa High School. According to the Sea Coast Echo’s report, Rice told investigators he was high on crystal meth for six days prior to the murder, and that Carpenter died after a bizarre sex act.

SEA COAST ECHO REPORT – On the Road Again: Mississippi can’t try trucker for murder
By Dwayne Bremer – Nov 30, 2010

A Kiln man who confessed to killing his girlfriend in September 2009, may be freed as early as February because officials in two states are not going to prosecute him for murder.

Mark Anthony Rice, 48, was indicted by a Hancock County Grand Jury on Nov. 18 on charges of arson and desecration of a corpse. The indictment was made public on Monday.

He had been charged with capital murder of his girlfriend, Natasha Carpenter, but the grand jury did not indict him for it because the crime did not happen in Hancock County, Assistant District Attorney Crosby Parker said Monday. Hancock County Sheriff’s Investigator Ricky Fayard said at a hearing last year that Rice–a trucker who had been living out of his rig–admitted he had been high on crystal meth for six days prior to the murder.

Rice told investigators that he killed Carpenter in Barstow, Ca. after a bizarre sex act in which Carpenter was bound, gagged, and duct-taped, Fayard said.

An autopsy found the cause of death as asphyxiation, which was consistent with Rice’s story, Fayard said. Carpenter was from Lubbock, Texas and had developed a relationship with Rice, Fayard said.

She would often accompany him on long-distance trips, officials said.

Rice told investigators he passed out after the liaison and when he awoke, he tried to figure out a way to get rid of Carpenter’s body, Fayard said.

First, Rice drove to an empty field with intentions of burying the body, but was scared off by passing traffic, Fayard said.

Rice then decided to go to a hardware store and buy a tarp, which he used to wrap the body and stored it in the sleeper cab of the truck while he made the cross-country trip back to Hancock County, Fayard said. When Rice arrived in Hancock County, he went to his ex-wife’s place of employment and told her that he had killed Carpenter and was going to say goodbye to his children and then kill himself, Fayard said.

The ex-wife then called police and when officers arrived at the residence on Kiln-Picayune Rd., they discovered Rice had locked himself in the cab of his truck and had set it on fire, Fayard said.

Parker said jurisdiction was a main factor in Rice not getting indicted for murder in Hancock County.

“Obviously, the murder did not happen here,” Parker said. “Mississippi has no waiver of jurisdiction. We can prove what happened here, and he was indicted on those charges.”

Parker said the case file was shared with officials in California to see if they wanted to charge Rice with murder.
Officials said the case file included a full confession and GPS coordinates showing Rice in Barstow at the same time he claimed the killing took place.

Despite the evidence, California authorities said Monday they are not going to prosecute Rice.

“The case was reviewed and turned down because of lack of evidence,” Susan Micky, the public affairs officer for the San Bernadino district attorney’s office said Monday.

Parker said he has an arraignment date set in February, and no lawyer has been appointed by the court to defend Rice.

The two charges for which Rice was indicted both carry a penalty of zero to three years in prison.

Rice has been in custody since his arrest on Sept. 18, 2009. He has not been allowed to post bond because of the capital murder charge, which he is no longer facing.

After an initial hearing in 2009, Rice told reporters, “I am a dead man already.” Rice also attempted suicide at the Pearl River County Jail shortly after his arrest, officials said.

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