Photos of Heaster to be allowed at murder trial, judge rules

Wednesday, June 9, 2004

Four autopsy photos taken at the state crime lab will be allowed as evidence in the trial of Cory Lynn Howerton, 25, of rural Eureka Springs, for the murder of Darrell Heaster, following a ruling by Circuit Court Judge Alan D. Epley on Monday in Berryville

During the so-called "photo hearing," defense attorney Kent McLemore introduced two other photos, taken at the Tulsa Burn Unit, where Heaster was a patient prior to his death on Aug. 31, 2003. The two photos, McLemore said, were examples of photographs available to the state which could be used instead of the apparently more 'colorful" photos from the lab.

Prosecutor Tony Rogers argued that the crime lab photos reflected the healing process which Heaster had undergone during the 30 days from the time he was found in a ditch with burns over 47 percent of his body, to when he died.

Forensic pathologist Dr. Frank Perretti testified that he could use either set of photos to illustrate the extent and nature of Heaster's injuries. Heaster died of pneumonia resulting from the burning.

Judge Alan D. Epley also ruled that the four crime lab photos were not cumulative, and showed appreciably different views.

Epley gave the state 30 days to identify any other photos from the Tulsa Burn Unit which it may intend to use, and notify the defense of its decision. The defense has 14 days to respond.

In another murder case, Defense Attorney Rachel Runnells conceded the findings of the state's examining physician regarding the competency of Brandon Lee "Buffalo" Webb, 22, of Goodson, Mo., and Green Forest, who is charged along with two others in the shooting death of Richard W. Gerrard Jr. on June 4, 2003, south of Green Forest.

Technically, the defense concession will be made at an omnibus hearing expected late this month or in early July. Webb is being housed in the Benton County Jail.

Also charged in the murder case are Leslie Keith Ward, 36, of Petal, Miss., and David Coy Greenhaw, 26, of Springdale.

Chelsea Lea Valiente, 20, of Green Forest pled guilty to a reduced misdemeanor charge of theft of property after quickly making restitution on a check that was altered and cashed at a Eureka Springs Bank. Her plea is being deferred for one year, and Valiente is to give truthful testimony in another case as part of the agreement. She is to also pay $150 in court costs and a $500 fine with $500 suspended.

Timothy Lawrence Walker, 57, of Alpena, admitted the allegations of a petition to incarcerate him on his probation from a hot check conviction from 1999. He had previously posted A $2,500 cash bond. Of that, $1,895 will be taken to satisfy outstanding fines costs and fees, with the balance being returned to Walker. He will be continued on unsupervised probation for the remainder of his sentence.

After a brief hearing in which the alleged victim testified, a domestic battery charge against Donn Raymond Reidy, 40, of Holiday Island, was dismissed. A remaining misdemeanor charge of fleeing was remanded to Eureka Springs District Court.

A charge of terroristic threatening against Paul Adam Howell, 30, of Eureka Springs, was dismissed after it was determined that the victim's family had misrepresented the incident.

Three men were arraigned on charges in connection with the April 24 break-in at Das Butcher Haus in Green Forest, during which some $3,745 in property was taken.

Eddie Leon Spencer, 35, of Alpena, Travis Ray Koone, 29 of Green Forest, and Eugene Smith Jr., 36, of Harrison, are charged with commercial burglary and theft of property, with Koone and Smith also being charged as accomplices.

Others arraigned on Monday included:

  • Betty Jean Spreeman, 46, of Harrison ---- Violation of the hot check law.

  • Marc David Howard, 30, of Berryville ---- Possession of firearms by a certain person, and possession of a defaced firearm.

  • David Wayne Tresler, 30, of Berryville ---- Possession of methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia.

  • Bradley Eugene Faught, 23, of Berryville ---- Two counts forgery, and theft of property, involving a series of counterfeit $100 bills passed in the area last October.

  • Billy Todd Smith, 38, of Berryville ---- Possession of drug paraphernalia, drug paraphernalia with intent to manufacture, and anhydrous ammonia in an unlawful container.

  • Arnulfo Lopez, 29, of Berryville, also known as Ryan Amirant ---- Rape.

  • Jacob Daniel Green, 27, of Eureka Springs ---- Delivery of marijuana.

  • Timothy John Heminger, 44, of Berryville ---- Possession of drug paraphernalia, theft, and possession of firearms by certain persons.

  • Gabriel Brandon Lidle, 28, of Fayetteville ---- Kidnapping, residential burglary, and endangering the welfare of a minor.

  • Miguel Angel Guzman, 19, of Berryville ---- Second-degree sexual assault.

  • Jeffery Clayton Ohmart, 34, of Berryville ---- Theft, criminal mischief, and leaving the scene of a property accident.

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