UPDATE Oct. 5, 2017: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports Victoria Rickman was sentenced to life without parole, plus five years, in DeKalb County court Thursday for killing her ex-lover.
March 7, 2017:
For the first time since her arrest, an Atlanta mom who made national headlines after shooting and killing her ex-fiancé is telling all from behind bars. Was it murder, or was her life in danger?
Is she the killer branded a "black widow" by the media, or a rape victim who pulled the trigger nine times in self-defense?
Her family says she's already been found guilty and convicted in the court of public opinion.
In a Crime Watch Daily Exclusive, Victoria Rickman breaks her silence for the very first time from behind bars, claiming she shot her lover to save herself.
For the last three and a half years, Victoria Rickman has made her home at the DeKalb County Jail outside Atlanta, Georgia.
"I've never really been in trouble," said Rickman. "The only thing that I definitely would say have problems with is being a battered woman and not making very good decisions with men."
Her first marriage ended in a contentious divorce, rife with accusations of abuse. But something good did come of it -- a son, who friends and family say means the world to Victoria.
"She's a good person, she's a good mother," said Paul Rickman, Victoria's father. "She's got a heart of gold, and she would help anybody she could help. This has been a total disaster."
A few years after her divorce, Victoria began a tumultuous romance with William Carter.
"I think I made excuses for him every time he did something wrong," said Victoria. "He always said he was sorry, or he begged me for forgiveness, said he'd go to therapy. You know, they told him he was schizophrenic. I think once you love people you want what's best for them, and I don't think you just give up on people just because they go through something. If he had cancer, would I just walk away?"
"I just believe that she was just caught up in this toxic relationship. She couldn't get out of it, unfortunately," said Victoria's friend Britni Morgan.
Over the course of a rocky three-year relationship, Victoria Rickman and William Carter racked up a laundry list of police reports against each other, ranging from domestic disputes, assault -- even sexual battery.
"This person mentally, physically and sexually abused me for years," said Victoria.
"I've witnessed some bruisings for sure," said Victoria's friend and former roommate Andrew Scarr.
"I heard him screaming at her through the phone while she was talking to him," said Britni Morgan. "She was in tears, and she didn't want to talk about it but I knew that she needed to, something was going on. She finally started showing me bruises and stuff on her, and I told her, I said 'You need to document this because if something happens to you, no one is gonna know.'"
"I look on it back now, and I'm like, how could I have been so stupid, you know, how could I have been so forgiving? Like, what's wrong with me to make me go back to that?" said Victoria.
Crime Watch Daily requested an interview with the Carter family to get the other side of the story, but they declined to comment at this time.
Finally, in 2013, William and Victoria reached a breaking point.
"She was emotionally, physically and sexually abused by him," said Britni Morgan. "That day of September the 13th, she'd had enough."
On Sept. 13, 2013 at 2:30 a.m., Victoria makes a distraught call to 911. She reports that her ex came in and raped her, and that she shot him.
Police find a bloodbath. William Carter was naked and dead on the bed, his body riddled with bullets, blood splattered everywhere and bullet holes in the ceiling, walls and window.
Shell casings paint a grim picture: nine shots fired from a .40-caliber handgun found in a bedside table.
"She's claiming that she was raped so she was transported by EMTs to Grady Hospital," Benton says on the show.
It's a reality show that's about to become a real-life horror show for Victoria.
"Detective Benton was out to get her from as soon as she pulled up," said Victoria's friend Britni Morgan. "The show was following her and she was doing it for TV, that's how I felt."
"On the way to the scene she's already saying I was claiming to be a rape victim and already deciding that she was not going to make me a rape victim, she was going to make me what she wanted for her show. The reality did not matter," said Victoria.
Victoria Rickman doesn't dispute that she shot and killed her ex-fiance. She says she had no choice it was either her life or his. But would the police believe that story?
The rocky relationship of Victoria Rickman and ex-fiance William Carter had finally reached a violent and bloody end. Carter's body is found on the bed, shot dead by a .40-caliber pistol fired nine times.
Victoria Rickman, breaking her silence from behind bars with Crime Watch Daily, claims it was a case of self-defense, that Carter had raped her.
"I don't think I've ever been a hundred-percent in fear of my life until that night," said Victoria. "And you know I knew I was gonna die."
"That day, it was either her or him," said Britni Morgan. "I believe that with all my heart because there's no way in the world that she would do that unless it was her life or his life."
"Having known that she had been physically abused by him, I was shocked completely to even find out that he was there or that anything had happened," said Paul Rickman, Victoria's father.
But Atlanta Police Homicide Detective Summer Benton, who was the featured cop on the "Inside Homicide" TV series that covered the case, was not so convinced.
Victoria's roommate, Andrew Scarr, who was not home at the time of the shooting, felt that Detective Benton had an agenda.
"I didn't have any doubt that it was in self-defense," said Scarr. "However, when I was speaking with the detective, I got the clear impression that she was trying to make a case against her, absolutely."
"But if it was self-defense, does it really warrant all this?" Det. Benton says on the show.
"From the very, very beginning, she was on her way to a crime scene with a camera, which already raises a red flag, so she could gain notoriety of like a reality TV star and get fame and bulk up her bank account, instead of seeking the truth and justice," said Victoria.
After completing a rape kit at a local hospital, Victoria faces interrogation from Detective Benton. The interrogation was recorded on video.
SB: I'm Detective Benton. I'll be the lead detective on the case.
SB: Would you like to speak to me about what happened on this whole thing tonight?
VR: Probably best if I speak with an attorney first.
SB: OK. Then if you want to just sign your name next to where it says 'Wishes to speak to an attorney.'
VR: I'll talk to you Summer, I just don't understand the process of it. I've never been in trouble. I mean, like, I know we've gone back and forth with Billy's history. He has beaten and raped me quite a few times. And gotten off. Every time.
SB: OK. Well, like I said, you have requested an attorney, so I cannot ask you any questions. I really can't speak to you at this point in time.
VR: OK. Do I get to make a phone call?
SB: Yes, give me a minute, OK?
Victoria begins texting friends and family.
But on the TV series, Detective Benton seems to portray this as incriminating. "She's digging her own grave," she says on camera.
SB: Your phone is now going to be with me. 'Cause I'm going to get a search warrant for your phone so that I can get all text messages out of it.
Detective Benton agrees to copy some numbers from Victoria's contacts before confiscating the phone, but then things get heated.
SB: Pass me your phone. Give me your phone.
VR: OK, I will --
SB: Ma'am! Why are you fighting with me?
VR: Because you're grabbing stuff out of my hand. That's inappropriate.
SB: Because it's evidence.
"She had to put something out there to make me look as bad as the way she perceived me on television," said Victoria.
VR: That was my attorneys and the news station.
SB: You're more than welcome to call the news station.
VR: I already did.
SB: You're more than welcome to call anybody you want.
VR: I will.
Within hours of her detention, Victoria Rickman receives the bad news.
SB: So based on neighbors, friends, family and based on the crime scene, at this point in time I'm arresting you for murder.
SB: You most likely will not be able to make bond 'cause it is a murder charge.
During her arraignment, prosecutors claim that Victoria emptied her pistol, then took the time to reload and fire more shots, all in self-defense. But is it accurate?
"I actually know what kind of gun she had," said friend Britni Morgan. "I'm the one that told her to keep it by your bed so that you're safe. I knew exactly what type it was. And how many bullets it held, when they said that on there I was like, 'No, absolutely not.'"
More than three years later, Victoria Rickman still waits in jail for her day in court. But supporters wonder if she can even get a fair trial after millions have watched her story on "Inside Homicide."
For example, the show made potentially damning remarks about photos found on Victoria's phone that showed her dressed provocatively, and other photos of her taken at a shooting range.
"Watching her say, you know, 'Pull up the pictures on her phone,' and say, 'Oh look here, you know, she's dressed like this, and she looks like a totally different person.' That was uncalled for," said Britni Morgan.
And there's more:
"She has got such a long list of rape claims that it's too big to email," Benton says on camera on the show.
"The detective states at one point that she has so many rape claims against men that, you know, the neighboring county couldn't email over the case files because there were so much," said Victoria's friend Andrew Scarr. "They had to, you know, bring a courier, which is absolutely, absolutely 100-percent not true."
Crime Watch Daily attempted to find these reported rape allegations, but we were unable to locate them.
Rickman's family claims the show hurt Victoria's chances of getting a fair trial.
"They made it sound that she was guilty of everything, and no way that there was any other answers to it than what they said," said Victoria's father Paul.
"I thought it was horrible. I mean, how is she going to get a fair trial?" said Britni Morgan. "Everybody is going to think Victoria Rickman is the one that killed her ex-fiancé."
"In her case, you're guilty till you're proved innocent," said Paul Rickman, Victoria's father.
Crime Watch Daily reached out to Detective Summer Benton, who declined to comment and referred us to the Atlanta Police Department.
The Atlanta Police Dept. released a statement saying in part:
"Detective Summer Benton is an outstanding homicide investigator and well respected. She has served the citizens of Atlanta honorably. Ms. Rickman's allegations are disappointing." -- APD
Victoria's former attorney issued a disturbing statement about her case, saying he believed that investigators may have misplaced, destroyed or lost evidence. He wanted to obtain all of the footage filmed for "Inside Homicide" to see what may have happened to it.
All we do know for certain is that Victoria Rickman pulled the trigger that took William Carter's life. Time will tell if it was a battered woman standing her ground in self-defense, or cold-blooded murder.
"It was her life or his life," said Morgan. "And if you were in her shoes, would you choose yours or his?"