Court documents reveal disturbing details of arson homicide

Joshwa Carlisle

Lawrence - A Lawrence man faces murder and arson charges in connection with the deaths of his ex-girlfriend and their infant daughter.

Police say Joshwa Carlisle, 22, is responsible for the September 19th deaths of 25-year-old Tracie Shannon and her nine-month-old daughter, Juliana Shannon. Court documents reveal that Shannon had taken him to court over child support payments.

The probable cause affidavit reveals disturbing details from the investigation. Investigators believe Carlisle smothered Tracie Shannon, then set the room on fire. The Marion County coroner found that Juliana had burns on her chest and face in a zig-zag pattern that appeared to be consistent with an accelerant sprayed on her.

The report states that Juliana was burned while she was alive, and died from smoke inhalation. A neighbor reported the baby screaming that evening at around 6:30 pm, knocked on the door and then realized the apartment was on fire. The neighbor called 911.

The report also reveals text messages between Joshwa Carlisle and his wife, including one that said, "They don't have to say anything this does not feel right don't say anything," and another that said, "Jusr [Just] do it so we can be ruled out." Police found a gap in the text messages between 5:21 pm and 12:56 am, which Carlisle's wife explained due to her cell phone battery going dead. The fire was reported around 6:37 pm that evening.

Police interviewed a waitress at a local restaurant who identified Carlisle and his wife as customers who ordered dinner that night. She told police the couple appeared to be arguing.

Police say Carlisle had a key to Shannon's apartment. They also say that Shannon was expecting Carlisle to visit that evening.

A series of emails revealed that Tracie Shannon and Joshwa Carlisle discussed Carlisle leaving his wife and moving in with Shannon. Shannon told Carlisle that she was pregnant, but Carlisle appeared reluctant to leave his wife. The report states that Carlisle inquired about getting life insurance on Tracie and Juliana Shannon in an email just before their deaths.

Carlisle's wife told Eyewitness News police are going in the wrong direction. She said her husband was not having an affair and his job was stable.

The probable cause, however, says Carlisle was upset about having to pay child support, but was making an effort to see his daughter on a regular basis. On the day of the fire, he left National Guard training and went to see Juliana.

Carlisle showed up at home around 6 p.m. that night and the fire department was called about 45 minutes later when neighbors heard Juliana screaming. While the fire was spreading in the apartment, Carlisle and his wife went to Walmart on Washington Street. By 7 p.m., they were at O'Charley's for dinner and an hour later, the couple was back at their apartment.

According to the report, Carlisle did not ask police why he was being questioned about Tracie and Juliana Shannon's deaths. He had no reaction when police explained what had occurred. A few days later, however, Carlisle was asked to identify Juliana's body at the coroner's office. When he did, he started to sob and say he was sorry.

Carlisle is charged with two counts of murder and one count of arson.