Ward pleas to murder conspiracy
Leslie Keith Ward, 39, of Alpena, pled guilty, in criminal court action Monday afternoon in Berryville, to a reduced charge of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder for his role in the shooting death of Richard W. Gerrard Jr., on June 4, 2003, at his home south of Green Forest on County Road 990.
In reaching the plea agreement, Prosecutor Tony Rogers said that Ward has been most cooperative in providing information to law enforcement, and is to testify against co-defendants Brandon Lee "Buffalo" Webb, 22, of Goodson, Mo., formerly of Green Forest, and David Coy Greenhaw, 25, of Springdale. "Everything that he has told us has been born out and corroborated," Rogers said.
For security and safety purposes, Ward will be transferred to Arkansas Department of Correction as quickly as possible, Rogers said. The prosecutor further stated that it did not appear that Ward was the person who fired the .22 caliber gunshots that killed Gerrard in the doorway of the travel trailer he lived in near his family's home.
The trial of Webb and Greenhaw continues on track to take place Nov. 1-5 in Berryville.
Along with testifying against his two co-defendants, Ward is to serve a 30-year sentence in prison, with 12 years suspended and credit for 241 days spent awaiting trial. He is to also pay $150 in court costs, and a $250 DNA detection fee starting within 90 days of his release.
According to an affidavit of probable cause, police report that Ward said he did not think that Webb and Greenhaw would kill Gerrard, who they believed to be a police drug informant, and that he would be able to talk them out of it if they were serious.
The court document also indicated that Ward knocked on the door of Gerrard's trailer then stepped back, and when Gerrard began to open the door, the other two began firing.
Earlier on Monday, Doug Coppernoll was appointed to represent Webb in the capital murder case against him. The death penalty will not be sought for Webb and Greenhaw, as no mitigating circumstances, such as burglary or theft, appear to exist.
Also during Monday afternoon, Craig Eugene Newberry, 42, of Eureka Springs, pled guilty to charges of criminal mischief, aggravated assault, fleeing, reckless driving, and driving on a suspended license, and was sentenced to six years in the Department of Correction He is to also pay a $1,500 fine, along with $400 in costs and fees starting 60 days after his release.
On March 1, Newberry rammed a Eureka Springs Police Department patrol car during a high-speed chase on U.S. Highway 62, nearly causing a multiple collision. He was finally stopped, in his Chevrolet S-10 pickup, after law enforcement officers laid out a spike strip in the area near the Carroll County Country Club in Berryville, resulting in flattening three of his tires.
Newberry also faced a petition to incarcerate on a suspended sentence he received in a 1994 theft of property case, in which he had failed to make payments. Deputy Prosecutor Chris Flanagin stated that the sentence in the 2004 case will be "flattened," satisfying the costs and fines owed in the 1994 case.
Russell Ray Vice, 53, of Green Forest, pled guilty to a reduced charge of theft of property, a Class C felony, and was sentenced to 10 years in prison with six years suspended. He is to also pay $1,750 in costs, fines and fees by the end of 10 years.
On Aug. 17, 2003, Vice stole a Kubota tractor from a Eureka Springs area man.
Naomi Larae Galvez, 21, of Green Forest, pled guilty to forgery, second offense, a Class C felony, and was placed on four years of supervised probation, during which time she is to not have a checking account.
Between Jan. 31 and Feb. 22 of this year, she wrote 11 checks on a man's account. In addition to probation, she is to pay $1,405.32 in victim restitution, a $1,500 fine, and $750 in costs and fees.
Madison County, like Washington County before, was unable to serve a summons on David Thomas McElyea, 49, author of When Money Grew on Trees, to appear on a petition to incarcerate in his 1993 drug conviction.
McElyea's book, released earlier this year, tells a story of Ralph Baker, the late sheriff of Madison County, and the two's relationship, in which McElyea allegedly provided funds from his marijuana-growing enterprise to the sheriff in exchange for protection from law enforcement investigation.
Judge Alan D. Epley ordered that a warrant be issued for McElyea.
A number of cases were dismissed Monday afternoon.
A petition to incarcerate Michelle Lynn Carrico, 22, of Berryville, was dismissed after she paid in full. She was convicted of theft by receiving in a January 2001 burglary case in which she helped to take stolen items to a pawn shop in exchange for $10.
Gregory McConnell, 42, of Green Forest, paid fines and costs ordered in his 1992 conviction of assault in the first degree, resulting in the petition to incarcerate him being dismiss.
McConnell received a one-year suspended jail sentence after admitting he assaulted a police officer with a big stick in January 1992.
Jason Dean Atkins, 28, of Green Forest, also paid restitution fees and costs to have a petition to incarcerate him dismissed. Atkins stole checks from a Green Forest couple in late 2002, forging checks on their account.
A hot check charge against Travis Jay Egbert, 23, of Berryville, was dismissed after he made restitution of 11 checks he wrote to various Berryville area businesses between June 5 and July 25, 2003.
Prosecution of Melissa Gale Baker-Helms, 32, of Oak Grove on drug charges were dropped, "for cause."
Baker-Helms was allegedly involved peripherally in a police chase in Barry County, Mo., and Carroll County on Dec. 23, 2003, in which Christopher William Helms, 19, of Branson, Mo., and Berryville, was arrested on methamphetamine-, marijuana- and firearms-related charges