~Justin Kent~

A not-guilty plea was entered Wednesday morning in Marion County Circuit Court for a 20-year-old Baxter County man who is charged with capital murder in the death of a Rea Valley man.

Circuit Judge Gordon Webb heard the plea from attorney Sam Pasthing for Justin Kent, 20, who is charged in the Sunday, April 4, death of David Searles, 38, of Rea Valley. Kent is charged with capital murder, a Class Y felony; two counts of residential burglary and one count of theft of property, all Class B felonies; and two counts of theft of property, Class C felonies.

Prosecutor Ron Kincade’s office originally had asked to have Kent held on $500,000 bond, and that request was increased to no bond after the capital murder charge was filed. Webb agreed to holding the suspect without bond, and Pasthing agreed.

According to a press release from Marion County Sheriff Roger Vickers, Kent was interviewed Monday evening, April 12, by investigators from the Marion County Sheriff’s Department and Arkansas State Police, and the suspect gave a “full confession of the crimes committed.”

According to information filed in the case, State Police Special Agent Jerl Hefner and sheriff’s Capt. Bill Hilligoss told Kent during the April 12 interview that the shooting could not have occurred as he had described earlier.

The affidavit says Kent admitted getting in an argument with Searles over a horse Kent was supposed to take to Searles. He reportedly said Searles was angry, and after going to sleep, Kent walked over with a rifle and shot Searles in the head.

The affidavit says Kent took the victim’s truck, credit cards, chain saw and rifle, returned the next day (Monday, April 5) with a trailer to pick up his Chevrolet S-10 pickup and went inside and got his wallet.

The affidavit says Searles admitting pawning the .22 caliber rifle and chainsaw at Mountain Home Pawn Shop.

The Marion County Sheriff’s Office had been contacted Thursday, April 8, by Michael Gibbons to check on his son (Searles), who hadn’t contacted anyone in three days. Officers said they had to use a four-wheel drive vehicle to reach the residence, and found Searles dead in his bed. He was officially pronounced dead at 2 a.m. Friday, April 9.

The body then was sent to the Arkansas State Crime Laboratory, who discovered Searles had a gunshot wound to the top of his head. Investigators also determined that his 1998 Dodge 2500 white pickup truck was missing.

Twelve minutes after the missing vehicle information was released, State Trooper Jackie Stinnett observed a vehicle matching the description, verified the license number and stopped Kent and took him into custody.

During an interview that morning, the affidavit says Kent described being asked to clean the victim’s .22 caliber rifle. He said a round was lodged in the chamber and accidentally went off when he tried to remove the shell. That interview prompted search warrants for the Searles residence and Searles vehicle and another interview.

Judge Webb said the case would be heard by Judge John Putman, who will be in Marion County Circuit Court next Wednesday. Kent’s next court appearance is scheduled for 10 a.m. Wednesday, April 21.

Story by: DWAIN LAIR

Please find orginal story at: http://www.harrisondailytimes.com/articles/2010/04/15/news/doc4bc6707fa3826994609294.txt

  1. Steve says:

    David Searles was a pretty easy going guy. He was never an “angry” person. Just friendly, caring, giving and kind. We go back about 23 years. I hope the death penalty applies here…..

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