Berryville teen held in shooting death had history of violence against slain woman, court records show
CARROLL COUNTY -- The primary suspect in the New Year's Eve death of a Eureka Springs woman had a history of conflict with her, court records show, and had recently been released from jail after being arrested for allegedly attacking her.
Victor Hugo Acuna-Sanchez was released from the Carroll County Detention Center, where he was being held on charges of battering Laura Acevez, only weeks prior to her untimely death, authorities said.
Judge David Clinger allowed him to bond out on credit in November, despite a previous ruling by Judge Marianne McBeth saying he should not be allowed to do so.
Laura Acevez, 21, was found in her apartment on U.S. Highway 62 West early Monday, lying in a pool of her own blood with a gunshot wound to the head. Acuna-Sanchez was arrested that evening, after police forced their way into his mother's cabin on Bluebird Mountain. Carroll County Sheriff Bob Grudek said deputies kicked in the bathroom door and found Acuna-Sanchez hiding in the shower with a .22-caliber handgun at his feet.
Acuna-Sanchez and Acevez had a history of romantic involvement -- and domestic strife -- according to court records. The two had an infant son together last August. A neighbor of Acuna-Sanchez's mother said the child had been a "bone of contention" between the two, and the manager of the apartment complex where Acevez lived, who asked to remain unnamed, said the baby was inside the apartment with his mother when the ambulance arrived Monday morning.
Grudek said Acevez had been alive when paramedics arrived, though she was unresponsive. She was pronounced dead later, at Mercy Hospital in Rogers.
Grudek said Acuna-Sanchez's gun had been sent to the State Crime Lab, where it will be tested for a match with the bullet used to kill Acevez. Prosecutors are awaiting the results of those tests before deciding whether to charge Acuna-Sanchez with murder. Grudek said he expected the results within a week.
Acevez had complained of violence by Acuna-Sanchez's hand as early as Christmas 2011. On March 8, 2012, she decided to do something about it and filed a petition for a no-contact order against him. She was pregnant with his child at the time.
"A week before Christmas 2011, Victor broke into my apartment where I was letting him stay," she wrote in March. "He took my TV, DVD player, Christmas tree, and other things. ... I told him to get out and give me my things. He pushed me to the floor when I shoved him to the door, and kicked me while I was on the floor. He tried kicking my face and damaged my finger when I put my hands on my face to cover it.
"I have tried to leave him before, but he always finds me and makes my life miserable by taking my things or my mom's things until I get back with him. He told me he wouldn't leave me alone."
Acevez was granted a temporary no-contact order on March 9. However, at the hearing for a permanent order on March 28, the petition was dismissed at her own request.
Acevez sought help again on Sept. 6. That night, Acevez told Berryville Police Officer Cody Boren that Acuna-Sanchez had forced his way into her apartment.
According to an affidavit later filed by Boren, Acevez said she had recently broken up with Acuna-Sanchez. He tried to kiss her that night, she said, and when she refused his advances and threatened to call police, Acuna-Sanchez knocked her to the ground and strangled her.
She told Boren she blacked out and awoke to find their 2-week-old son lying on the ground beside her. Acuna-Sanchez had stolen her cell phone and car keys before fleeing on foot, she said.
Boren and other officers tried, unsuccessfully, to locate Acuna-Sanchez that night. He was arrested on Oct. 3 and charged with Aggravated Assault on a Family Member, Domestic Battery in the Third Degree, Interfering with Emergency Communication and Theft, as well as various unrelated misdemeanor charges.
When Acuna-Sanchez appeared before Circuit Judge Marianne McBeth on Oct. 5, she set his bond at $15,000, with the stipulation that he could not bond out on credit and that, if released, he was to have no contact with Acevez or their infant son.
Acuna-Sanchez's attorney later filed a motion requesting the credit prohibition be removed. That request was granted by Circuit Judge David Clinger at Acuna-Sanchez's arraignment, on Nov. 13, and he was released from jail two days later.
Clinger had also ordered that Acuna-Sanchez call the Department of Community Corrections twice weekly, as a further condition of release. However, court records show Acuna-Sanchez never did that. There apparently were never any legal ramifications for his failing to follow the judge's orders, as he remained free.
The records also indicate that Acuna-Sanchez violated the no-contact order multiple times during the intervening weeks -- though there is no record that Acevez complained to authorities until two days before her death. Neighbors of Acevez said Acuna-Sanchez had even stayed with her for about a week around Thanksgiving.
On Dec. 29, Acevez accused Acuna-Sanchez of pouring bleach into her gas tank while she was working at the Tyson plant in Berryville. Acevez later told police she had squabbled with Acuna-Sanchez that morning over his requests for money.
Her car died after work that day at Casey's General Store, on Highway 62 in Berryville.
When Daniel Crawford spoke with Acevez at the gas station, she told him Acuna-Sanchez was watching their son, in violation of the no-contact order. Acuna-Sanchez's mother babysat the boy periodically, even while Acuna-Sanchez was living there also. On that day, Acuna-Sanchez's mother had gone to Missouri, leaving the boy alone with his father.
According to the affidavit later filed by Crawford, he attempted to make contact with Acuna-Sanchez that day, but could not locate him. A warrant was not issued for Acuna-Sanchez's arrest until Dec. 31, after Acevez was already dead.
At Acevez's apartment complex Thursday, neighbors were saddened and incredulous about her death.
The complex manager called her a "very, very sweet girl."
"She went to work, and came home, and took care of her son," he said. "You know how people say, 'she's so bright and bubbly it almost makes you sick.' Well, that was her.
"I don't think I ever saw her without a smile."
Acuna-Sanchez is being held at the Carroll County Detention Center while charges are pending in Acevez's death. No bond had been set as of press time late Thursday.