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Local
County COVID cases increased over past weeks

Per the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement, effective Tuesday, Oct. 13, Cleburne County shows an infection rated for COVID-19 of 1.48 per 10,000. This is an increase since last week of 1.16 and the week previous of .77, both per 10,000.

The North Central Arkansas survey district, of which Cleburne County is a part, continues with this upward trend of 2.43 infections per 10,000, up from last week’s 1.96 and the previous week’s 1.85.

Stone County, to Cleburne’s north, was a 3.52 per 10,000 average three weeks ago, and was up to 4.32 two weeks past. Last week it was 2.96 per 10,000, and this week is down to 0.96 per 10,000.

For this week, counties to the south show higher numbers. White County, also a member of the North Central survey district, shows 2.17 per 10,000. Faulkner County, a member of the Central district, is 2.13 against the district’s 2.03 per 10,000.

Using just Heber Springs as a survey area also shows 10-19 infections per 10,000, compared to three weeks ago of 0-9, roughly the same as the two previous weeks. Greers Ferry remains consistent at 0-9 infections per 10,000, as does Fairfield Bay.

The Heber Springs School District is now at 10-19 infections per 10,000, up from last week’s 0-9, reversing what had been a lowering trend and restoring it to its average from two weeks ago. The Pangburn School District remains at 20-29 per 10,000, unchanged in the previous three weeks.

Cleburne County, per the Department of Health, has 37 active cases, of 23 confirmed and 14 probable. This is up from last week’s 29, and the previous week’s 19. Cumulative cases for the county are 391, up from last week’s 362, and 331 the week prior. Total deaths in the county are 14, up from last week’s nine. Recoveries are 340 from last week’s 324, and 331 two weeks prior.

As of Tuesday morning’s recording, Arkansas has 93,487 cases. Last week the number was 87,430 cases, and 82,049 cases two weeks ago. Three weeks ago 76,364 cases were shown. Statewide recoveries are recorded at 84,055, up from last week’s 79,052 cases.

Updates may be found at healthy.arkansas.gov and ACHI.net/covid19


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Rabies Clinic success

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Leader of drug trafficking organization sentenced to 25 years in federal prison

FAYETTEVILLE — On Tuesday Oct. 6, Marion Wise of Cave Springs, Arkansas, was sentenced to 25 years in prison conspiracy to distribute heroin. Wise is the final of 25 individuals responsible for a wide-ranging drug conspiracy to be sentenced.

David Clay Fowlkes, First Assistant United States Attorney for the Western District of Arkansas and Brad L. Byerley, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration, announced today that all 25 individuals have now been sentenced by the United States District Court for their roles in a heroin and methamphetamine trafficking ring that operated in Benton and Washington Counties in Arkansas and also in the additional jurisdictions of California, Oklahoma, Missouri, Arizona and Mexico. The investigation and prosecution of this operation began mid-2018 through the October 6, 2020 sentencing. The Honorable Judge Timothy L. Brooks presided over the sentencing hearings in the United States District Court in Fayetteville.

“Heroin and fentanyl drug use has reached epidemic proportions in many communities across the United States. These drugs are terribly addictive and extremely dangerous. The overdose deaths investigated in this operation are proof of how deadly these drugs are. This case is an excellent example of our plan to keep the trafficking of these drugs from causing even more deaths and even more damage to our communities in Northwest Arkansas. We will continue to focus our Federal Criminal Resources to investigate, convict, and obtain lengthy sentences for all those who would seek to import and distribute these deadly drugs into the Western District of Arkansas,” said First Assistant US Attorney David Clay Fowlkes.

“Nothing is more important than keeping our communities safe. DEA, along with our federal, state and local law enforcement partners, will continue to utilize our combined resources to target individuals trafficking drugs and guns, threatening the safety of our citizens in this region of Arkansas and throughout the country. These convictions send a message of our unending resolve to pursue drug traffickers who wreak havoc in our communities,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Brad L. Byerley.

Federal grand juries returned multi-count indictments against 25 individuals in the Northwest Arkansas area and beyond for their roles in a large-scale drug trafficking conspiracy. This drug trafficking ring imported multiple kilograms of heroin, methamphetamine and fentanyl into the Northwest Arkansas area from out of state for local distribution. Once sold to retail distributors, the heroin, methamphetamine and fentanyl were distributed in communities throughout Northwest Arkansas. Two heroin/fentanyl related overdose deaths were tied to the investigation.

Defendants in this conspiracy received the following sentences:

Marion Wise, 50, of Cave Springs, Arkansas, was sentenced Oct. 6, 2020, to 25 years in federal prison followed by five years of supervised release on one count of Conspiracy to Distribute Heroin. Wise was indicted in the Western District of Arkansas and plead guilty to an information in Feb. 2020.

Sherry Finn, 44, of Bella Vista, Arkansas, was sentenced Oct. 6, 2020, to 77 months in federal prison followed by three years of supervised release on one count of Conspiracy to Distribute Heroin. Finn was indicted in the Western District of Arkansas and plead guilty to an information in Feb. 2020

Michael Wells, 49, of Tulsa, Oklahoma, was sentenced May 20, 2020, to 68 months in federal prison followed by three years of supervised release on one count of Conspiracy to Distribute Heroin. Wells was indicted in the Western District of Arkansas and plead guilty on Nov. 6, 2019.

Ari Sorto, 28, of Springdale, Arkansas, was sentenced May 19, 2020, to eight years in federal prison followed by one year of supervised release on two counts of Knowingly Using a Communication Facility in a Drug Trafficking Crime. Sorto was indicted in the Western District of Arkansas and plead guilty on Jan. 7, 2020.

Cole Coleman, 29, of Bentonville, Arkansas, was sentenced April 17, 2020, to 87 months in federal prison followed by three years of supervised release on one count of Conspiracy to Distribute Heroin. Coleman was indicted in the Western District of Arkansas and plead guilty on Nov. 22, 2019.

Blaine Dehosse, 33, of Rogers, Arkansas, was sentenced April 17, 2020, to 106 months in federal prison followed by three years of supervised release on one count of Possession with Intent to Distribute Heroin and one count of Possession of a Firearm in Furtherance of Drug Trafficking Offense. Dehosse was indicted in the Western District of Arkansas and plead guilty on Jan. 23, 2020.

Jonathan Hannah, 35, of Rogers, Arkansas, was sentenced Feb. 13, 2020, to 54 months in federal prison followed by three years of supervised release on one count of Maintaining Drug-Involved Premises. Hannah was indicted in the Western District of Arkansas in and plead guilty on Sept. 26, 2019.

Stephanie Coleman, 47, of Bentonville, Arkansas, was sentenced Jan. 29, 2020, to 18 months in federal prison followed by three years of supervised release on one count of Conspiracy to Distribute Heroin. Coleman was indicted in the Western District of Arkansas and plead guilty on Nov. 22, 2019.

Kourtney Wilson, 31, of Joplin, Missouri, was sentenced Jan. 29, 2020, to one year in federal prison followed by three years of supervised release on one count of Distribution of Heroin. Wilson was indicted in the Western District of Arkansas and plead guilty on Oct. 22, 2019.

Robert Johnston, 54, of Tulsa, Oklahoma, was sentenced Jan. 29, 2020, to 46 months in federal prison followed by three years of supervised release on one count of Conspiracy to Distribute Heroin. Johnston was indicted in the Western District of Arkansas and plead guilty on Oct. 25, 2019.

Jennie Nutt, 59, of Rogers, Arkansas, was sentenced Jan. 28, 2020, to three years in federal prison followed by three years of supervised release on one count of Conspiracy to Distribute Heroin. Nutt was indicted in the Western District of Arkansas and plead guilty on Oct. 23, 2019.

Adrian Oviedo, 36, of Springdale, Arkansas, was sentenced Sept. 18, 2019, to 330 months in federal prison followed by five years of supervised release on one count each of Aiding and Abetting in the Possession with Intent to Distribute Methamphetamine, Conspiracy to Distribute Methamphetamine and Felon in Possession of a firearm. Oviedo was indicted in the Western District of Arkansas and plead guilty on July 9, 2019.

Brenda Martinez-Blevins, 48, of Springdale, Arkansas, was sentenced Aug. 22, 2019, to one year in federal prison on one count of Failure to Depart. Martinez-Blevins was indicted in the Western District of Arkansas and plead guilty on May 3, 2019.

Vernon Williams, 53, of Watts, Oklahoma, was sentenced Aug. 14, 2019, to 248 months in federal prison followed by five years of supervised release on one count of Distribution of More Than 50 Grams of Actual Methamphetamine. Williams was indicted in the Western District of Arkansas and plead guilty on Mar. 12, 2019.

Gabriel Whitener, 36, of Watts, Oklahoma, was sentenced Aug. 14, 2019, to 210 months in federal prison followed by three years of supervised release on one count of Conspiracy to Distribute Controlled Substances. Whitener was indicted in the Western District of Arkansas and plead guilty on Mar. 12, 2019.

Aaron Bevill, 38, of Gravette, Arkansas, was sentenced Aug. 13, 2019, to 142 months in federal prison followed by three years of supervised release on one count of Conspiracy to Distribute Controlled Substances. Bevill was indicted in the Western District of Arkansas and plead guilty on Mar. 12, 2019.

Gregory Jobe, 32, of Sulphur Springs, Arkansas, was sentenced July 31, 2019, to 15 years in federal prison followed by three years of supervised release on one count of Distribution of Heroin. Jobe was previously indicted in the Western District of Arkansas and plead guilty on Mar. 4, 2019.

Connie Sherrell, 56, of Watts, Oklahoma, was sentenced June 10, 2019, to 62 months in federal prison followed by three years of supervised release on one count of Conspiracy to Distribute Controlled Substances. Sherrell was indicted in the Western District of Arkansas and plead guilty on Feb. 19, 2019.

Harold Campbell, 36, of Rogers, Arkansas, was sentenced June 10, 2019, to 37 months in federal prison followed by three years of supervised release on one count of Possession with Intent to Distribute Heroin. Campbell was indicted in the Western District of Arkansas and plead guilty on Nov. 8, 2018.

Tyler Dellinger, 29, of Bella Vista, Arkansas, was sentenced May 11, 2020, to 13 years in federal prison followed by three years of supervised release on one count of Possession with Intent to Distribute a Controlled Substance and one count of Possession of a Firearm in Furtherance of a Drug Trafficking Crime. Dellinger was indicted in the Western District of Arkansas and plead guilty on Feb. 4, 2020.

Matthew Woodrome, 38, of Rogers, Arkansas, was sentenced May 8, 2019, to seven years in federal prison followed by three years of supervised release on one count of Possession with Intent to Distribute Heroin. Woodrome was indicted in the Western District of Arkansas and plead guilty on Nov. 8, 2018.

Robert Peeler, 31, of Rogers, Arkansas, was sentenced April 19, 2019, to 27 months in federal prison followed by three years of supervised release on one count of Possession with Intent to Distribute Heroin. Peeler was indicted in the Western District of Arkansas and plead guilty on Dec. 7, 2018.

David Moore, 32, of Fayetteville, Arkansas, was sentenced April 4, 2019, to 46 months in federal prison followed by three years of supervised release on one count of Possession with Intent to Distribute Heroin. Moore was indicted in the Western District of Arkansas and plead guilty on Nov. 15, 2018.

David Garduno, 35, of Rogers, Arkansas, was sentenced April 2, 2019, to 51 months in federal prison followed by three years of supervised release on one count of Distribution of Heroin. Garduno was indicted in the Western District of Arkansas and plead guilty on Nov. 7, 2018.

John Botson, 27, of Garfield, Arkansas, was sentenced March 5, 2019, to 157 months in federal prison followed by three years of supervised release on one count of Possession with Intent to Distribute Heroin. Botson was indicted in the Western District of Arkansas and plead guilty on Nov. 7, 2018.

This prosecution was part of the Western District of Arkansas’ Operation Sticking Points, which is part of the Department of Justice’s Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) program. The OCDETF program is the centerpiece of the Department of Justice’s drug supply reduction strategy. OCDETF was established in 1982 to conduct comprehensive, multilevel attacks on major drug trafficking and money laundering organizations. Today, OCDETF combines the resources and expertise of its member federal agencies in cooperation with state and local law enforcement. The principal mission of the OCDETF program is to identify, disrupt, and dismantle the most serious drug trafficking and money laundering organizations and those primarily responsible for the nation’s illicit drug supply.

This OCDETF case was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration in Fayetteville, Arkansas and Tulsa, Oklahoma, the Benton County/Rogers PD Narcotic Unit, the 4th JDDTF, Arkansas State Probation and Parole and the Arkansas National Guard Counter-Drug Unit. Assistant United States Attorneys Kimberly Harris, Dustin Roberts and David Harris prosecuted the cases for the Western District of Arkansas.


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Brake light leads to arrest on Cleburne County warrant

CLINTON — An early Thursday morning traffic stop by Clinton Police led to the arrest of a man wanted in Cleburne County.

Arrested in the Oct. 8 incident was Nicholas David Matson, 26, of Clinton, charged with possession of methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia as well as the outstanding Cleburne County warrant.

According to the police report, an officer was on patrol at 3:12 a.m. near Clinton school when he found himself behind a “dark colored passenger car.” As that car came to a stop the officer realized it had a brake light out. He pulled the car over.

The driver, the only person in the car, handed over his driver’s license. It was Matson. The officer called in the driver’s license information and was told the man was wanted in Cleburne County on an outstanding warrant.

A search of online court records who a warrant had been filed for Matson in Cleburne County for his repeated violations of a parole agreement reached after an incident in a Cleburne County park November 2018. In the incident Matson was charged with driving off in his car while a young lady, 13, was reaching in the back seat to gather some items, which injured her and resulted in an aggravated assault charge against him.

The current warrant showed Matson had missed repeated appointments with his parole officer. Drug use was cited, as was in at least one case a “bad mental state.”

The Clinton officer took Matson into custody and searched Matson’s car.

In the car the officer found several “clear smoking devices” which had a “crystalline residue” and a small bag with a “crystal like substance” within.

Matson was taken to the Van Buren County Detention Center where he was fingerprinted and charged, then taken to the county line and turned over to officers from that jurisdiction.


Local
Quorum Court approves upgrade to courthouse electrical

HEBER SPRINGS — Cleburne County Quorum Court met in its regular session Oct. 8. The meeting in this case was in an out-of-the ordinary location, as the county court house was in use for other purposes. Justices met in the old courthouse on Main Street, in a courtroom on the second floor.

Matters discussed included electrical service for the old courthouse, as well as county ambulance service.

The electrical service was actually a more sweeping review of the courthouse. Cleburne County Judge Jerry Holmes asked the court how the justices felt about splitting up or combining two projects for the courthouse.

At issue was the earlier approval of $96,676.89 left over from an earlier grant awarded in 2019 now being used for an electrical system upgrade needed for an upgrade to the courthouse’s heating and air (HVAC) unit.

Holmes explained to the justices that other needs existed at the courthouse, including repairs to its columns (this was also briefly discussed up at the September Quorum Court meeting) and repairs to the courthouse dome. The latter would be especially expensive due to the need to construct scaffolding around it prior to any work being done, justices heard.

Per the ordinance, the grant extension had been approved after the budget process, and needed to be approved.

Justices approved the electrical system upgrade with the remaining work to take place under a separate bidding process.

Justice Sean Blackburn make the first reading of an ordinance he sponsored, which was a lengthy listing of the qualifications needed for an ambulance service to bid on providing county service, including ambulance condition, staffing, and other operating requirements.

The service which meets the requirements would be eligible to receive the county franchise.

Based upon the ordinance requiring three reading before becoming law, two additional readings would be required, expected to take place at the next two Quorum Court meetings.

Holmes asked Blackburn prior to the reading if the ordinance had received legal review.

After the meeting, Holmes stated that the Ambulance Committee, formed to address county ambulance needs, had only had its first meeting, with additional meetings scheduled for Oct. 22 and 29.

The court also approved an ordinance forming a separate fund for CARES Act funding, provided by the national legislature to address COVID-19 issues. A stand-alone fund, essentially an accounting classification, was approved.

The jail committee report toward the nature and scope of changes for the county jail remained in work, Justice Chad Evans told the court, as meeting with consultants who will draw up any proposal are ongoing. A report should be expected in November, Evans said.

Justice Roger Pearson read into the record an Oct. 1 letter from Arkansas Division of Law Enforcement Standards and Training Joe Duboise which spoke about Van Buren County Sheriff Chris Brown’s contribution to training, as well as Brown setting “... a high bar on professionalism and leadership.”

The letter also praised Brown’s contribution as an adjunct instructor for the Central Arkansas Law Enforcement Training Academy (CALETA).

A second letter was read into the record praising the work Veterans Affairs Cleburne County Lisa Evirdge was doing for veterans in the county.

The next Quorum Court meeting is scheduled for Nov. 19.