Top stories: Year brings mixed bag of headlines
Looking back, 2020 was a year of stress and uncertainty.
Political and civil unrest combined with a burgeoning pandemic to leave many people feeling the full gamut of human emotion, often all at the same time.
Last year, life began to return to a more normal state as political disagreements settled down and people grew used to living in the midst of a global health crisis.
In Carroll County, 2021 was highlighted not only by stories of tragedy and loss but also hope for the future, community betterment and profiles of some of those who make the community better simply by being part of it.
As the new year begins, take a look back at some of the other top news stories from 2021, as chosen by members of the Carroll County News staff.
Berryville Mayor Tim McKinney gave city council members an initial look at his proposed plan to beautify and update the city’s downtown square during the council’s Jan. 19 meeting at the Berryville Community Center.
The plan incorporates a number of landscaping features, along with construction of new sidewalks, crosswalks, a pavilion and a decorative clock.
“This is something I’ve been working on for quite some time,” McKinney said. “For several years, I’ve had many people talk to me about trying to make the square more user-friendly and a little bit more imaginative or historic thing like we want, and this is something, a preliminary plan, we’ve come up with.”
McKinney said he’d been working on the project for some time.
“I’ve been mayor for 32 years,” he said, “but it’s been over probably the last six months and at the end of last year, we got a landscape architect involved.”
McKinney said this initial plan was put together with the help of a number of local residents.
“There’s been a lot of people have looked at it and given suggestions and ideas and stuff,” McKinney said. “It’s kind of based on what I’ve seen in the town and heard people say they want or would like to see on our square over the last few years and kind of gave it to the landscape architect.”
Work began on the project in the summer and is now nearly complete.
Three Carroll County men were arrested on Feb. 8, 2021, in connection with the murder of a Eureka Springs man exactly three years earlier.
Josh Anderson, 41, and Charles Hanna, 32, both of Berryville, and Jason Helm, 35, of Holiday Island were arrested in the Feb. 8, 2018, murder of Chris Alvard at his home near Eureka Springs.
“These arrests came after a three-year investigation involving hundreds of investigative hours,” a new release from the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office said. “The Carroll County Sheriff’s Office and Arkansas State Police are extremely pleased to finally bring this case to court and ultimately provide closure to the family.”
Alvard’s body was discovered inside a residence at 674 Carroll County Road 116 near Eureka Springs by CCSO deputies who were dispatched to check on an open door.
The sheriff’s office requested assistance from the state police at the time of the murder and special agents from the ASP’s Criminal Investigation Team were assigned to the case.
One of the suspects confirmed to investigators that all three were involved in Alvard’s death, according to a probable-cause affidavit written by special agent Dale Bailey of the Arkansas State Police.
Family members became concerned when they couldn’t contact Alvard, according to the affidavit. Alvard’s mother went to his home and discovered the front door had been kicked in and there was a large amount of blood on the front porch, the affidavit says.
Carroll County deputies were dispatched to the scene and discovered Alvard’s body inside the doorway of the master bedroom, the affidavit says. Alvard’s dog was also found dead inside the residence and appeared to have been stabbed multiple times, according to the affidavit.
An autopsy later determined that Alvard died as the result of multiple stab wounds, the affidavit says.
According to the affidavit, the names of Anderson, Hanna and Helm “kept coming up as being involved” during the investigation into Alvard’s death.
“Based upon the three names, attempts were made to interview all three,” the affidavit says. “One of the three informed investigators that all three were involved in the death of Christopher Alvard. He stated that they initially went to the Alvard residence to ‘rough up’ Alvard. He stated Alvard fought back to the point where at least two of the potential defendants used deadly physical forced armed with knives.”
Other witnesses overheard or witnessed Anderson, Hanna and Helm discussing their involvement or saw evidence corroborating their involvement in Alvard’s death, the affidavit says.
All three men have pleaded not guilty to charges of first-degree murder and cruelty to animals.
‘City hit a home run’
Berryville native Dean Lee was officially introduced as the new executive director of the Greater Berryville Area Chamber of Commerce during a reception April 6 at the Berryville Community Center.
It almost didn’t happen.
According to Berryville Economic Development director Chris Claybaker, who served on the search committee for a new director, Lee’s application was nearly dismissed out of hand.
“When I saw his resume might come through, I just dismissed it almost immediately,” Claybaker said. “How can Dr. Dean Lee come to Berryville, Arkansas? How can we pay him? That was my biggest worry, because I know that we’ve struggled during the pandemic.”
Lee, 64, is a 1975 graduate of Berryville High School. He earned his bachelor’s degree in education in 1979 and his master’s degree in education in 1981, both from Henderson State University in Arkadelphia. He earned his doctorate of education from the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville in 1989.
A former high school basketball coach, Lee previously served as athletic director at Arkansas Tech University and Arkansas State University, where he served for 12 years, including a stint as associate vice chancellor for advancement, and as vice president of the University of Arkansas’ Razorback Foundation.
“When we were actually sitting down and talking to him, finding out that he’s a Berryville boy, that he’s coming up here all the time seeing this mama — after seeing all that, and looking at what he’s done in the past, we decided we needed to do whatever we had to do to get him, and it wasn’t that hard because he wanted to come home,” Claybaker said. “I think the city hit a home run.”
Lee, who spoke briefly during the reception, said he was happy to get a chance to serve his hometown.
“I’ve been kind of pins and needles, afraid that [Berryville Mayor Tim McKinney] would come in and do like they do at a wedding and announce, ‘if there’s anybody here that has any objections to this union, speak now or forever hold your peace,’ ” Lee said. “It has been 45 years that I’ve been here and lived in this community. That’s back in the days of eight-track tape. The best social media at that time was listening to your neighbor on the party line, but I’ve always tried to keep contact.”
In addition to his role as chamber director, Lee also serves as community development director for the City of Berryville, working closely with the mayor’s office and Claybaker.
Library’s new chapter
Berryville residents will soon have a new place to read, research, meet, and participate in community activities.
Library staff and members of the board were joined by local elected officials, business leaders and many others Thursday, April 1, to hear a number of announcements regarding the future of the library.
Chief among them was news that plans for the library’s new home had been completed and that fundraising for the project is now underway.
“It’s an incredibly exciting future for Berryville, really for all of Carroll County, for every resident and visitor alike,” said Joe Scott, president of the Berryville Library Advisory Board. “This is about setting a legacy for the future. This proposed library is a really essential public space.”
The proposed $2.5 million library building — which will be located at 207 Springfield St. on land donated by the city — was designed by architect Robert “Butch” Berry of Eureka Springs with interior designs planned by Lisa Claybrook of Fayetteville. The projected date to begin construction is 2025.
Since the April announcement, fundraising efforts have already topped $1 million, or 40 percent of the fundraising goal. The announcement was made at the Friends of the Berryville Library’s annual meeting in December.
“We are so grateful the community has recognized and embraced the need for an expanded library to meet the growing needs of our town and we are all celebrating this wonderful milestone,” Berryville Library director Julie Hall said. “However, we can’t become complacent in raising the remaining amount. It will take all of us working together and donating our time, talent and treasures as we can.”
Fatal shooting in GF
The Green Forest police officer who fatally shot Maung Tway, 34, on June 5 “was justified in discharging his duty weapon,” according to an opinion released later that month by Carroll County prosecuting attorney Tony Rogers.
According to Rogers’ report, while the investigation into the incident by the Arkansas State Police is still underway pending additional forensic evidence, the body camera footage of the incident was sufficient to render an opinion.
“It is the opinion of this office that [Officer Francisco Pedraza] of the Green Forest Police Department was justified in discharging his duty weapon, and his actions accordingly were justified under the laws of the State of Arkansas,” Rogers wrote in a letter sent to Green Forest police chief John Bailey and special agent Jana Cordes of the state police.
The incident, which Bailey described as “unfortunate,” began when Pedraza responded to Tway’s Green Forest apartment after his roommates called police, reporting that Tway was creating a disturbance and asking that he be removed from the apartment.
In his opinion, Rogers described video footage of the incident, which shows Pedraza ask Tway to exit his bedroom three times before Tway “rapidly” opened the bedroom door and “exited aggressively,” charging at Pedraza with what Rogers described as a “machete-type knife.”
Pedraza repeatedly ordered Tway to drop the knife — which he refused to do — before firing a shot at Tway.
“Mr. Tway continued to rush the officer, with the knife raised in a striking position,” Rogers wrote. “Officer Pedraza fired two more shots that hit Mr. Tway and then Mr. Tway fell to the ground.”
Tway was transported to Mercy Hospital in Berryville, where he was pronounced dead.
Immediately after the shooting, Bailey met with Tway’s family before issuing a statement saying, in part, “We are a close, multicultural community who’s mourning the loss of life as we patiently wait for the answers to what happened.”
After Rogers issued his opinion, Bailey met with Tway’s family a second time to answer any questions they had and again express his and the department’s condolences.
According to Bailey, this was the first officer-involved shooting in Green Forest since 1969, when then-Carroll County Sheriff Orval Bishop was killed in an armed confrontation with a suspect while responding to a domestic disturbance.
In June, Carroll County deputies responding to a domestic disturbance near the King’s River were shot at by a armed suspect who was threatening a female subject at gunpoint.
After firing at the deputies, the suspect fled into the woods, crossed the river and disappeared into the woods, setting off a three-week manhunt that spanned three counties and two states.
Benjamin Leeray Reagan, 33, of Lampe, Mo., was taken into custody on July 7 after a brief standoff with deputies from the Barry and Stone County (Mo.) sheriff’s departments, who were, according to Carroll County Sheriff’s Office chief deputy Maj. Jerry Williams, were “tactically able to go in there and capture the suspect.”
Reagan had been on the run since June 12, when Carroll County deputies interrupted the alleged kidnapping and possible attempted murder of a female subject near the Romp Hole river access on the King’s River in northern Carroll County.
Reagan faced multiple felony charges in both Arkansas and Missouri, along with several misdemeanors, many of which are related to earlier offenses. Felony charges from Arkansas included two counts of attempted murder of a police officer, kidnapping, aggravated assault, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and fleeing, along with several misdemeanor charges for failure to appear, fleeing, driving on a suspended license, no insurance and theft of property.
Missouri charges included violating parole, unlawful use of a weapon (shooting from a motor vehicle toward or at a motor vehicle or person), unlawful use of a weapon (exhibiting), felony property damage, two counts of driving while suspended or revoked and two counts of operating a motor vehicle without financial responsibility.
Two Carroll County siblings died and a third was injured July 10 during an accident resulting from a cattle roundup on a family farm north of Green Forest.
According to Ted Hostetler, a team leader for the Mennonite Disaster Services Search and Rescue team and on-scene incident commander, Alex Hostetler, 20, and his brother, Layne, 15, died while trying to extricate a straggler steer from a pond on the 1,000-acre farm owned by their father, Louis Hostetler. Their sister, Eileen, 18, was injured attempting to help her brothers get out of the pond.
The brothers were transported by ambulance to hospitals in Berryville and Harrison, where they were later pronounced dead. Their sister was transported by Air Evac helicopter to a Springfield hospital, where she was treated and released.
The two brothers were both experienced riders doing what was expected to be routine work, Hostetler said.
“Alex and Layne loved horses,” Hostetler said. “They loved cattle. This was their passion. Dad bought this big farm and they took care of the cattle and lots of horses. They rode horses daily.”
Hostetler said the accident and resulting deaths were a heavy blow to the family and the county’s Mennonite community as a whole, not to mention his search-and-rescue team members.
“Our guys, I’m going to say, without being too proud, are very well trained,” Hostetler said. “Now we show up to a scene that is one of our people. At a time like this, training and experience kicks in, but then after the fact, you kind of feel like you’re going to go to pieces.”
Hostetler said the community gathered together with the family after the accident.
“I’ll be honest with you, the family is struggling,” Hostetler said. “They need people’s prayers. They lost their two oldest sons and it’s hard to grasp right now. It will take some time, but we’re a community that sticks together. We’re here for each other. We believe in the power of prayer and community.”
Murder in Holiday Island
Gabriel Brotherton, 26, of Holiday Island, was arrested Nov. 10, after he allegedly admitted stabbing his father to death.
According to a probable-cause affidavit written by investigator Bobby Engles of the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office, deputies were dispatched to an address on Apache Drive in Holiday Island just after 7 a.m. Upon arrival, the deputies found the body of Richard Brotherton in the front yard of the residence and Engles observed blood on Brotherton’s face and upper body and apparent stab wounds to his head and neck.
Engles’ affidavit notes that deputies had been called to the residence several times for domestic disturbances involving Richard Brotherton and his son, Gabriel. There was also a no-contact order in place against Gabriel Brotherton because of a previous altercation.
After Richard Brotherton’s body was discovered, deputies attempted several times to talk Gabriel Brotherton into exiting the residence, the affidavit says. Officers with the Tri-City Special Response Team then arrived on scene and entered the main floor of the home, according to the affidavit. Gabriel Brotherton attempted to exit the bottom floor of the residence, the affidavit says, and was located by Carroll County deputies and taken into custody.
According to the affidavit, Gabriel Brotherton told Engles that he and his father had a verbal argument and his father assaulted him. Gabriel Brotherton told Engles that he stabbed his father with a black-handled knife with a black blade and then placed the knife in his bedroom, the affidavit says. Investigators found the knife, with what appeared to be blood on it, on a bedside table in Gabriel Brotherton’s bedroom.
A month before the death of Richard Brotherton, Gabriel Brotherton had been arrested and charged with terroristic threatening and third-degree assault on a family or household member and had been released on bond from the Carroll County Detention Center on Oct. 22.