Retro Charlotte

1970: A Murder in SouthPark

“Hands on hips, a detective surveys scene. Arrow indicates spot where Miss Underwood's body was found.” June 22, 1970
“Hands on hips, a detective surveys scene. Arrow indicates spot where Miss Underwood's body was found.” June 22, 1970 The Charlotte News

Carla Jean Underwood went missing in June, 1970 after leaving work at SouthPark Mall. A few days later a Celanese employee found the body of the South Meck student while walking down a dirt road behind the Celanese building near Fairview Road, and the suspected abduction became a murder case.

Here’s an excerpt from Charlotte News reporter Dick Hammerstrom’s story filed on June 22:

“Police detectives fanned out today in an area near SouthPark, talking to anyone who might have seen the two men believed to be the slayers of 17-year-old Carla Jean Underwood.

Police have issued a description of two men witnesses say were driving Miss Underwood’s car Thursday, when she mysteriously disappeared from the shopping center parking lot.

Both men are Negroes, between the ages of 22 and 25 years old and about 5 feet, 10 inches tall.

Miss Underwood’s body was found last night in a wooded area just two blocks from SouthPark. Police said there were five bullet wounds in the body. The wooded area is on Celanese property, accessible only by a maintenance road which leads to a chain-link wire cage used to store maintenance equipment.

The body was found amid rubble down a slight incline some 30 feet from the dirt road. A dirty, off-white throw rug, which was found covering Miss Underwood’s body, was atop the rubble. What appeared to be dried blood stained the rug. The only visible part of her body was her left leg from the knee down. She was still wearing the brown dress she had on when she went to work Thursday morning.

Her car, a cream-colored 1969 Opel Kadet station wagon was found afire on Clarkson St., near Cates St., about three hours after she was last seen.”

Later that year two men were charged with the murder. As the trial unfolded it was learned that the two had abducted another woman on the morning of Underwood’s disappearance. Mrs. Rose Collins was taken from the Tryon Mall shopping center, robbed, and left tied up in woods. The two drove Collins’ car to SouthPark where, while attempting to robbery, Miss Underwood was shot to death. The pair panicked, got rid of the body, drove Underwood’s station wagon “across town” and burned it. They were both found guilty and sent to prison for the murder.