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Teen charged with murder

A 19-year-old Quitman resident is now charged with capital murder in connection to his mother’s shooting death.

Jessie Dalton Owen, 19, was formally charged on Jan. 6 in Cleburne County Circuit Court with capital murder, a Class Y felony; theft of property (a firearm), a Class D felony; and theft of property (a vehicle), a Class D felony; following an investigation that began on Nov. 17 after his mother was found dead.

Addie “Christy” Owen, 41, was found dead in her home on Firehouse Road in the Hopewell community after her boyfriend requested a family member check on her when she did not return phone calls on the day in question.

A state medical examiner has since stated the Quitman woman died of “gunshot wounds to the head,” and authorities believe the woman’s son is responsible for her shooting death.

The woman’s boyfriend told Cleburne County Sheriff’s Office deputies he was worried about Christy because he had not talked to her since around 10 p.m. the night before and she had not responded to several other calls since then. Other family members had noted Christy’s vehicle was not parked outside her home and that the exterior door were locked, according to court documents.

Once a search warrant was approved, authorities looked for evidence related to the case in the Firehouse Road residence.

“The home layout contained four doors in total to reach the body,” the affidavit reads in part “The house did not appear to be ransacked or disturbed in any way. There were no lights on in the entire house except for a dim light in the playroom, the bedroom light, and a TV was on in the bedroom.”

Authorities also found a .22-caliber shell casing and a homemade silencer in Christy’s bedroom, the report states.

After talking to the woman’s family, sheriff’s deputies found out Jessie had a history of acting violent toward family members and that he had stolen his mother’s vehicle in the past. When the 19-year-old previously took his mother’s vehicle, he reportedly left it at a gas pad on Fry Road. According to court documents, authorities found Christy’s vehicle at the same gas pad on Nov. 18.

When questioned by police on Nov. 20 about his mother’s slaying, Jessie reportedly admitted to locking all the doors in the home before he fled “so nobody would suspect me.”

Though the 19-year-old admitted to breaking into his mother’s bedroom using “a red screwdriver that he altered” to steal her car keys and said he made the silencer found in her room, Jessie denied “pulling the trigger,” according to the affidavit. However, court documents state Jessie “confessed to wiping the gun, with a wood stock that extends to the length of the barrel, scope, and shoulder strap, free of any prints.”

Dina Butler, who is Jessie’s grandmother, reportedly told police on Nov. 25 that she found a gun that Jessie hid under a blue van in her yard and that she threw it in Barnett Lake in White County.

The grandmother disposed of the gun in the lake the morning after Jessie was arrested, according to her statement.

“Dina said she did this because she thought, ‘if there was no gun, there would be no case against Jessie,’” detective Jenifer Osborn wrote in her report. “Dina said she figured out where the gun was on her own … she remembered Jessie had asked where he could hide something that was five feet long and six inches wide. Dina said she told him under the van.”

A circuit judge has since ordered Jessie remain behind bars in the Cleburne County Detention Center in lieu of a $750,000 bond.

The Quitman teen is currently scheduled to stand trial in September.

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Court returns to business with new faces

Judge Jerry Holmes began last Thursday’s quorum court meeting by welcoming Cleburne County’s newest justices of the peace, Jacque Martin and Charles Tamburo, to the proceedings, then the leaders got down to business.

An appropriations ordinance transferred $820,918.66 from the Coronavirus Relief Fund into the Cleburne County Capital Projects Fund.

“This list of what this money covers changed weekly,” Holmes said.

Martin voiced her concern the funds may be needed for humanitarian aid later this year.

“We’re going into a new administration that intends to lock this nation down for 100 days, what’s going to do to us?” Martin said.

“We don’t know what the future is, we don’t have crystal balls. We need to keep it for when, if, our economy takes a nosedive from the policies that Mr. Biden or Ms. Harris implements. If we need to feed people,,” Martin said.

“Time will tell, “Holmes said.

The first resolution of the new year the county passed allows Holmes to let the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program know the county is willing to match the organization’s 2022 $250,000 County Courthouse Restoration Grant. The grant and matched funds would be used to replace the HVAC system in the Cleburne County Courthouse at 301 West Main Street.

Currently the building is all-or-nothing when it comes to heating or cooling. Either the air is on or the heat is on. Any new HVAC system installed will likely be “zoned,” which allows the comfort level of each office to be adjusted according to the occupants. Once the project is actually bid, the county judge or county treasurer will be authorized to administer the funds for the HVAC project. Additionally, steps will need to be taken to preserve the historical structural integrity of the building along with other steps, such as asbestos abatement.

Then it was time for an “Ordinance Authorizing the County Judge to Execute a An Interlocal Agreement Between the County of Cleburne and the City of Heber Springs Regarding Dispatching Services and City Prisoners Held in the County Jail.”

During the discussion portion, quorum court member Sam Henegar made a statement of what he had seen when he attended the city’s council meeting in December.

“When they got to the portion of their agenda for this issue, the mayor opened discussion with a statement that ‘We always pay our bills, we’ve never not paid our bills,” and it took him about five minutes to say it, but that was the gist of his statement, all the time he’s sitting on a bill that’s two months overdue. That’s a lack of honesty, that’s gross dishonest, in my opinion. When the discussion come about, not one city council member said one word to accept any responsibility for the mess that they’re made, that they’re in. Those that did speak, made every attempt to cast that responsibility on this court,” Henegar said.

“I think that’s gross incompetence. Competence to me is recognizing a problem, addressing the problem, and if it’s yours, own it. When I go to sign a contract with somebody, this ain’t the character of the people I want to sign a contract with,” Henegar said.

Several quorum court members nodded and expressed agreement. Holmes said he understood where everyone was coming from: it was discussed that the county isn’t trying to monetize the misdemeanor offenders from the city and both the city and the county came together to pen the agreement.

“I just found it interesting they want to go $12 million into more debt, but can’t pay the county what they owe,” Martin said.

Everyone lamented that the verbal agreement that had existed is no longer good enough for some people and that further negotiations will probably be needed on the issue.

“We can’t work on a handshake anymore,” Tamburo said.

In other quorum court news, the jail committee is still waiting to hear back regarding renovation of the jail.

“Every state and federal agency which you call and try to deal with, there’s nobody in the office, everybody’s working from home, and, I guess with no oversight, they’re apparently pretty lax,” Holmes said.

The first ordinance of the year established the protocols and procedures for the quorum court.

The meetings will be held at 6 p.m. on the second Thursday of each month, except for the November meeting which will be held on the third Thursday.

Items of business to be presented at the quorum court meeting should be furnished to the office of the county clerk at least eight days prior. Resolutions, ordinances, or other written material including the agenda and minutes will be presented to the quorum court members five days prior to the meeting. Special meetings and committee meetings will be held at the county judge’s office with two days prior notice given to members of the quorum court.

Another ordinance established putting five members of the quorum court on the county’s budget committee. Nothing in the ordinance prevents or hinders any member of the quorum court of any member of the public from attending any budget committee meeting or presentation. The last sentence of the ordinance reads “Whereas the budget approval process is the single most important thing that the quorum court does.”

Right on Track

Ruland Junction is about more than just trains.

Their one-of-a-kind museum is a trip back in time to a simpler era. They provide a learning experience where children can re-create what they see around them.

Located at 12th and Maple Streets, in Heber Springs, the Museum is open Tuesday-Saturday 8:00 am-4:00 pm. Admission is $5.00 for Adults and $2.50 for children 12 & under. Group tours and discounts are also available. For more information call 501-362-6342.

School safest option for many

For many families in the Heber Springs School District, the COVID-19 recommendations for isolation aren’t feasible. There are a plethora of reasons why: work, multigenerational families, along with the logistics. The virus has been like when there is a tornado, but dragging on towards its 12-month anniversary. Just like when there is a tornado, often the safest place for students is at the school.

“Each family dynamic is unique and we want to be available to support our families in whatever educational avenue they choose.” said Dr. Andy Ashley, superintendent of the district.

On the first day back from Christmas break, enrollment in the Heber Springs School District was at 1,539 district wide. That is on-site and remote students combined.

“We had about 10-20 families call (each building) to let us know that their child is either in isolation, quarantined, or is staying virtual for the first couple of weeks out of safety. Elementary and middle school have between 40-45 students who are 100 percent virtual, while the high school runs about 150. These numbers change daily due to family circumstances. Monday we also had several students who were virtual last semester come back to on-site learning this semester,” Ashley said.

The district participates in the Food 4 Kids program by the Arkansas Food Bank where it provides a bag of food for students to have for the weekend. The district also provides families with a box of food once a month, again by the Arkansas Food Bank. All students are able to receive breakfast and lunch for free.

“We have a Covid Dashboard linked to our website where I update the numbers each day. This is what has been reported to us: kids who are positive, how many are in quarantine, and faculty/staff as well,” Ashley said.

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Woman attacks husband with hammer

Compiled from Cleburne County Sheriff’s Office and Heber Springs Police Department reports

A Heber Springs woman is charged in a felony battery case after allegedly hitting her husband multiple times with a hammer.

Michelle Lee Harbour, 47, was charged with second-degree domestic battery, a Class C felony, following the Dec. 8 incident.

According to the felony probable cause affidavit filed against Harbour, the woman hit her husband with a hammer after taking the license plate off his vehicle.

The woman’s husband said she took the license plate off his vehicle “because she wanted him to be pulled over because he does not have a driver’s license.” After his wife took the license plate off his vehicle, the man said he also took the license plate off her vehicle.

According to the husband’s statement, “there has been some contention between Michelle and himself due to recent allegations” involving a teenage family member.

After the husband took the license plate off his wife’s vehicle, he said she proceeded to hit him with a “claw hammer with a wooden handle.” The man walked from the couple’s home to the Smoke House following the attack, where he called police.

Authorities said the man had lacerations on his left wrist, right forearm and the right side of his neck. The husband also suffered a contusion on the left side of his head.

Online records show that a $2,000 bond was issued against Harbour following the incident.

Search leads to drug arrest

A Cleburne County resident was arrested in mid-November after authorities reportedly found methamphetamine and marijuana in his bedroom.

William Seth Cotton, 24, is charged with possession of a controlled substance, a Class D felony, after authorities conducted a search warrant at his Wolf Bayou Cutoff residence in Concord on Nov. 15.

According to the felony probable cause affidavit filed against Cotton, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission requested the Cleburne County Sheriff’s Office assist it in conducting a search warrant on the 24-year-old Concord man after noticing he had been hunting with a rifle. Cotton is prohibited from having or carrying firearms because he is a convicted felon, the report states.

When authorities arrived on scene, Cotton reportedly fled “into the nearby woods.”

An AGFC officer soon caught up to and detained Cotton while a sheriff’s deputy proceeded to search the 24-year-old’s bedroom.

“During the search of the residence, officers were advised that the room that is locked is Cotton’s room and that he is the only one that has a key,” deputy Devin Taylor’s report reads in part. “During the search of that room, prescription pill bottles were found that were prescribed to William Cotton. Also inside the bedroom was a Marlin .22 rifle that was inside of a camo Allen gun case.”

According to the report, police also found marijuana, drug paraphernalia and 0.61 grams of methamphetamine in Cotton’s bedroom.

Cotton was ultimately arrested and charged with possession of a controlled substance.

Online records show that Cotton posted a $10,000 bond on Nov. 18.