Carter, 24, is charged with murder and attempted robbery in the July 18, 2010 death of Officer Bailey.
Bailey was washing his car outside his Chatham home on the city's South Side when he was shot to death. He had just gotten off a security detail for former Richard M. Daley.
Prosecutors say Bailey confronted Carter, a gunfight ensued, and even after identifying himself as a police officer, Bailey was struck down by Carter's bullets and left to lay in the street.
Investigator say Carter -- who is jailed on a separate, unrelated case of carjacking -- bragged about Bailey's murder, which led to a break in the case. They say he wrote letters from his prison cell and spoke with other inmates about Bailey's murder. The Chicago Police Department raided a house on the South Side and reportedly recovered those letters.
Carter has an extensive criminal history that includes three prior felony convictions -- for a carjacking in 2004, for drug charges in 2008 and for aggravated battery of an officer in 2009. He was on parole in that case when he allegedly shot and killed Officer Bailey. Carter had been out of jail for only two months, officials say.
Police began questioning Carter about three weeks ago at a state prison where he was being held on a $50,000 bond related to the carjacking.
In court Wednesdsay, Carter repeatedly said he understood the first-degree murder charges against him in front of Judge Israel Desierto.
Family and colleagues gathered for the court appearance of Carter. The youth of the accused stunned Bailey's widow.
"I was surprised that he looks like a little kid. I mean, I just can't imagine someone just taking someone's life," said Pamela Bailey, wife.
Detectives said they never gave up looking for their colleague's killer.
"We give every case that we investigate in a murder, we give 100 percent, but this one is obviously a little more important to us," said Detective Dan Stover, Area 2, Chicago Police Department
Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez said she was offended by reports her office delayed charging Carter because she was in Hawaii on business. She said the case against Carter is strong and the state's parole regulations need to be reviewed.
"That is something perhaps we need to take up with the governor and change the laws to make parole laws stricter than they are," said Alvarez.
"We all celebrate here today but by the same token we know we are not done yet, and we know, unfortunately, that this fight is going to go on, not just in this case but in the future, trying to turn around gun violence in this city,'" said Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy.
For the slain officer's daughter, a police cadet studying to join the Chicago Police Department, the charging of Carter is proof her father's advice for becoming a successful cop rings true -- even from beyond the grave.
"Always have faith that things will work themselves out. No matter what, fear is the absence of courage and always be brave," said Jada Bailey.
ABC7 talked to Miracle Thompson who came face to face with Carter when he allegedly carjacked her mother's vehicle. Thompson, 18, says she was walking to her apartment from her mother's car when Carter pulled a gun and stole the car. But before taking the car, they talked and he even let her take her belongings out first.
"He didn't know what he was doing. That's why I wasn't scared," she said.
Hours later police say they found Carter with the car, a Chevy Malibu. Thompson identified him in a line-up. She was unaware at the time that he was out on parole for striking a peace officer.
Sylvia Thompson was upstairs while her daughter was being carjacked.
"That was the scariest thing, that when I found out this was the same person. But for the grace of God, he could've killed my baby," said Thompson.