BONIFAY — Emily Carter's 23rd birthday didn't begin as she had hoped. Instead of spending November 27, 2015 celebrating with her twin sister, family and friends as planned, she was rushed to the hospital following a violent early morning attack.
Carter was asleep at her home at Bonifay Villas Apartments when around 4 a.m., an assailant entered her apartment, rolled the single mother up in her bed comforter, and viciously attacked her, stabbing her more than 40 times around her upper back and head before fleeing the scene.
While Carter was gravely injured, neither her then 3-year-old daughter, Presley, nor a visiting cousin were - both of whom were sleeping when the attack occurred - were harmed.
Today, Carter lives in Washington County and says while she has recovered from her physical wounds, she deals with her emotional scars daily and is growing impatient for answers as the two-year anniversary of her attack approaches.
"Sometimes I feel that if I was from a well-known and respected family, my case would have moved along quicker," said Carter. "I still have panic attacks and become frightened in certain situations, knowing that the person who tried to hurt me is still free."
Carter also alleges some evidence in the case was either mishandled or not properly collected.
"The investigators didn't even collect the comforter that I was stabbed through until my aunt point-blank asked a deputy why it hadn't been processed as evidence," said Carter. "Also, the scene wasn't secured because my sister went in the apartment and cleaned it up the next day, washing away blood."
Carter's aunt, Lisa Whitfield, echoed similar concerns.
"I was surprised that Emily reported she was rolled up in the comforter and stabbed repeatedly while she was in it, yet it wasn't bagged for evidence," said Whitfield. "We had asked to have access to her apartment the next day to retrieve a couple things, and the pillows and comforter were still on the bed. I was like 'Are you kidding me? You don't think this is evidence?'"
"At that point, I had picked the comforter up," continued Whitefield. "There were stab wounds all in it. The attacker's DNA was probably still on there, and days later, [investigators] found the bloody shirt he dropped. It sat in the yard for four days."
Bonifay Police Chief Chris Wells states accusations that evidence was mishandled is "absolutely untrue" and that the bloody shirt found on the property seems suspicious in itself.
"We canvassed that area thoroughly," said Chief Wells. "The shirt just showed up three days later out of nowhere, and the grounds keeper called us to let us know."
Chief Wells also stresses that solving the mystery behind Carter's attack remains one of this top priorities, and his department is still following leads.
"This is an open an active investigation," Wells said. "I have not in any way filed this away; [Carter's] files stay on top of my desk, and I look at them everyday. We were conducting interviews as recently as last week, and we are striving to bring closure to both the case and the family."
Wells also advises that the amount of time that has passed since the 2015 attack is not uncommon.
"It takes time," said the chief. "Unfortunately, real life isn't like television where crimes can be solved in an hour."
Whitfield says the case cannot be solved soon enough.
"We just want to know who did this to Emily and want them apprehended," Whitfield said. "We don't care who gets credit for it. This is not for anyone to put a trophy on their wall. This is her life, and we want answers. Someone needs to be held accountable."
Chief Wells asks that anyone who has any information regarding Carter's attack - regardless of how insignificant they think it may be - to contact Bonifay Police Department at 850-547-3661. Tips may also be reported anonymously by calling Holmes County CrimeStoppers at 866-689-8477.