Neighbors say Carter's behavior had become increasingly bizarre and menacing.
Last August, he slapped a 3-year-old neighbor girl, hard, in the face. Sheriff's deputies took Carter away, said Wendy Walker, 29, that girl's mother. His behavior just got stranger and stranger, she said. Walker said that in January, she caught him snarling profanities at her daughter through her window.
Carter used to have a job; he dressed well and loved to dance, Walker said. He used to go to her house to play dominoes and other games, Walker said. He used to play kickball with her daughter, who was close to Mireya. Carter sang gospel songs too, she added.
"He was raised in the church," Walker said. "We used to hang out during the holidays.... That dude was a dancer. He loved to dance."
But in recent years, Carter's odd behavior grew worse, and neighbors saidhe would sometimes dance in the middle of the street from before dawn into the late afternoon. Sometimes he danced during downpours.
Neighbors said they thought he was into heavy drugs. Brandon Ellison, 27, said Carter cut a "zombie-like" figure in the neighborhood.
Jones said he developed a hard stare.
"He looked at you like he wanted to kill you," she said. "Like he hated you."
Not long ago, she said, Carter tried to break into her house. Jones said he knew she was there, and she grabbed a knife. Before she could get help, one of his brothers stopped him and dragged him away, Jones said.
"It was in broad daylight," she said. "It's like he got a hold of some really bad stuff, and he was tripping."
Carter lived with his sister, niece and parents in a small house in the 1100 block of East Peck Street; family members had been apologetic about his behavior, but they seemed powerless to stop it
, neighbors said.
Residents said the tree-shaded neighborhood was not without its problems, including gangs. It's calm during the daytime, rougher at night. But for the most part, neighbors get along, and even some of the well-established gang members seem respectful of many of their neighbors. The neighborhood had an Easter celebration, Jones said.
In many ways, the girl's killing was more shocking than any gang murder could be.
Lt. Liam Gallagher, of the L.A. County Sheriff's Department homicide bureau, said Mireya's mother called about 7:20 a.m. Sunday to report Mireya missing. Deputies found her in the closet. Though investigators said her body was in a trash bag, family members said they were told it was not. Carter was not home. According to a coroner's report, Mireya was killed by "sharp-force trauma to the neck."