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More than a victim: Wendy Cartledge-Carter
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Wendy Cartledge-Carter became the victim of convicted murderer Cobey Wade Lakemper on August 18, 2005 - her 41st birthday. But before she was a victim, she was a wife, a mother and Daddy's little girl. And according to her family, nothing will ever change that.

She grew up surrounded by friends, and by the age of 1 she was already a giving and loving child, according to her mother Betty. She did well at school and loved to skate with her sister and brother.

"She was a good girl and she never done no bad," said Betty. "She was always my little girl."

And while Wendy was close with her entire family, her heart always belonged to her father William. Through tears he described coming home from work with bags of chips for the kids and finding "a dozen young'uns" at the house, ready to play.

"That was when it was okay to ride in the bed of a truck...and I would have a truckload of kids...we'd drive down the dirt roads and Wendy would call out 'look out for Indians!'" he said, crying. "She was a wonderful person. As a daughter, I just can't describe it."

Her sister Cindi described growing up close and staying that way with Wendy, a little girl she named after a character on "Casper the Friendly Ghost." Cindi recalled how her sister always had tons of friends around growing up, and, as an adult, how her giving nature continued, saying that Wendy would give a person the shirt off her back if they wanted it.

Wendy met her husband of 21 years, Randy Cartledge, on Emory Street when he was 16 years old. The two married a year later and he said the happiest time in her life was when she had her oldest son Doug.

"There was nothing she wouldn't do for me or the kids," he said.

Randy also addressed accusations made during the trial about his wife's character. According to her family she was not a big drinker and would never have drank liquor straight from the bottle - especially not while she was at work.

"The love I had for her and the love she had for me - she wouldn't have broken that trust," said Randy, addressing claims that Wendy and Lakemper had sexual contact the night he shot her. "We lost a good woman."

When she was shot in August 2005, Wendy's sons were 17, 15 and 12. Now grown, they all have nothing but fond memories of a hands-on mother who wanted nothing more then for them to get an education and who worked hard to grant them their every wish.

Doug remembered visiting his mother at the hotel where she worked and talking with her for hours on end. And how she would gather her boys and they would all sit in bed and watch television together.

"She was a big-hearted woman and she never said no to her boys," said Doug. "She's not going to be able to come back, but those memories will last forever."

Doug's son Mason Cole was born a year ago, a grandson that Wendy will never know. Doug is determined to keep her memory alive for his son.

"I just hope I do a good job raising my son like she did with us," he said.

Her middle son Dustin is working hard to get his education so that his mother's dreams for her sons won't be in vain.

"I'm so glad we had the time we did with her... All those memories we have of her, those won't ever change."

Her youngest son Dylan called his mother the "ultimate gift," and lamented the short amount of time he had with her before she died, 10 weeks and a day after being shot.
"You can't put my mom into words," he said. "There was something just special about her that nobody can take away from us. She was the most important woman in my life," he said, crying.

"I miss her, and I hope she's proud of me."

Wendy's father lit a candle in his bedroom when his daughter died and that candle has burned since that day. He intended on putting it out once justice was served, but even though he is thankful for the verdict that will keep his daughter's killer in jail for the rest of his life, he can't bring himself to put the flame out.

"I thought when the trial was over I might turn that light off," he said, pointing to the window where the candle for his daughter brightly burns. "But I just can't bring myself to do it."