Carter is being held at the Chester County prison without bail. The crude tattoo visible on his neck in the police mug shot - the word Cutthroat surrounded by flames licking upward toward his chin - identified him as the suspect, police said.
Kevin S. Allen last talked with his son by phone around 5 p.m. Feb. 12. He left $350, money from his tax return, in the apartment for his son to buy clothes. The teen said he would take a bus to Pottstown to get the cash.
The victim was seen in a SEPTA security video boarding a bus in Norristown with Carter. The two, who knew each other, got off the bus in Pottstown, Hogan said.
At 7 p.m., a resident of the Hanover Garden Apartments on East Schuylkill Road in North Coventry Township called 911 to report a "violent physical struggle" in the staircase leading to Allen's apartment. Police arrived to find the apartment on fire. They also found a significant amount of blood, according to court documents.
"That was the doorway into hell," Hogan said.
Allen's body was found lying between the living room and kitchen. Vegetable oil had been poured on his back and ignited.
"The money was gone," Hogan said.
The outside temperature was in the 30s when Carter boarded the bus alone for the return trip to Norristown. Surveillance video showed he was wearing no coat. Detectives said that once he sat down, he appeared to check his hands and body. Then he pulled out money and counted it.
Carter has a criminal record that includes pleading guilty to theft from a motor vehicle and receiving stolen property resulting from arrests in 2011, according to public records. He served time in Montgomery County and was released last month.
When police showed Montgomery County jail officials the images of Carter in which the tattoo was visible, they were able to identify him.
When interviewed, Carter said he knew the victim vaguely and had not been on the bus. Detectives saw injuries to Carter's hands that were consistent with someone's using a knife with great force, according to public records.
"What is the value of a young man's life today?" Hogan asked. "It's $350, and that is a tragedy."
Contact Mari A. Schaefer at 610-313-8111, firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow @MariSchaefer on Twitter.