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Friday, May 6, 2016

Murder suspect's attorney awaiting more evidence

Thursday, January 30, 2003

Photographs from the crime lab and diagrams from the murder scene are the two pieces of evidence Billy Jack Wilson's attorney is waiting on before Wilson's murder trial set for Feb. 25. Wilson is one of five suspects charged with first-degree murder for the death of an Agnos man.

At Wilson's pre-trial hearing Jan. 22 Attorney Norman C. Wilber said it was likely his client's case would be continued because two of the five suspects in the murder case are awaiting mental evaluations. Wilber said, "There is a backlog on these cases."

Wilber maintains his client was only the driver of the vehicle. He said Wilson had no prior knowledge that a murder was to take place on the night of June 24, 2002, in Fulton County.

Murder suspect Jesse Petty, 21, also charged with first-degree murder, did not appear before Judge John Dan Kemp at the pre-trial hearing Jan. 22. Petty, who was out of jail after posting bond, was arrested again in January in Independence County and charged with possession of methamphetamine with the intent to deliver.

Petty remains in the Independence County jail with bond set at $15,000.

Court proceedings were stayed Sept. 17, 2002, for Brian Keith Shankle, 18, and Bobby Woodrum, 18, both charged with capital murder, pending mental evaluations.

Timothy Est, 19, is scheduled to appear in circuit court for a pre-trial hearing May 13. His trial date is June 3.

The five suspects were arrested for the murder of Russell "Joe" Fisk who was found dead in his home with a leather belt wrapped around his neck.

Shankle and Woodrum were both arrested June 27 at Boggy Landing near Elizabeth by the Arkansas State Police SWAT team.

Special Agent Tommy Cleveland of the ASP reported one of the suspects had a .22-caliber handgun in his possession at the time of the arrest.

Special Agent Mack Thompson reported 25 members of the SWAT team, five of who were reconnaissance snipers, and a hostage negotiator worked surveillance on the pair using night vision and thermal imaging equipment.

The other three men, Petty, Est and Wilson, were arrested June 28 in Independence County.

An affidavit recorded in the clerk's office said a witness reported seeing a small station wagon with an Arkansas handicap license plate parked near the victim's residence around 6 p.m. June 24.

During an interview conducted by authorities the witness identified Woodrum as a frequent visitor to the Fisk home. Investigators learned that Woodrum's girlfriend, Susie Smith, drove a white Ford Escort station wagon, displaying an Arkansas handicap license.

Smith was located at her residence in Izard County and voluntarily traveled to the Fulton County Sheriff's Office.

In a post-miranda taped interview, Smith said that she, accompanied by a juvenile female friend, did transport Woodrum, Shankle and a third white male known to her only as T.J. to the area near the Fisk home. The affidavit said she was instructed to park some distance away while the three men walked to the residence. She said she was told the men were going to collect money Fisk owed Woodrum for lawn work done prior to March 28. Smith told authorities the men returned within a few minutes and stated Fisk was not home.

Smith said she later transported these same men to Shankle's home in Batesville. At approximately 8:15 p.m. the same men, along with a Hispanic male called "Jesse" and another male called "Chad," left the Batesville residence in a Ford escort described as pinkish purple. She told authorities she believed the men were going to Cave City to look at car stereos.

Smith said the same men returned to the Batesville residence in the same vehicle at approximately 12:05 a.m. June 25.

She told authorities she observed "Chad" reach into the back seat of the Escort and remove what appeared to be a small computer with a cord wrapped around it from the floorboard behind the driver's side seat. She said she and Woodrum began to argue and Woodrum looked at Shankle and asked if he could tell her what was going on. Smith said that Shankle replied, "Go ahead," and walked away.

The affidavit stated that Woodrum told her that he and Shankle and the other men had in fact returned to the Fisk residence. She said she was told Woodrum and Shankle went inside and argued with Fisk about the money. She said Woodrum told her Shankle raised his voice during an argument and Fisk pulled a gun and put it to Shankle's head. She reported that Woodrum said he then struck Fisk in the face with his fist, causing Fisk to fall and strike his head on a cabinet. Woodrum told her the men fled the residence, not knowing whether Fisk was alive or dead, she said.

According to an affidavit, Wilson admitted he was the driver of the pinkish purple Ford escort and did transport Woodrum and Shankle, along with the other men, to Fulton County on the night of the crime.

The affidavit noted Wilson told authorities Woodrum and Shankle said the man they were going to see owed them $75 and they wanted to collect it. Wilson said he was to receive $25 for transporting the men.

Wilson further stated that Woodrum and Shankle went to the residence while the other men remained at the vehicle. He said the men returned carrying a computer screen and something in a small black case.

Information from witnesses indicated that a .22-caliber handgun owned by the victim was kept in a plastic case. Wilson described Woodrum's and Shankle's behavior as extremely nervous and said they were in a hurry to leave the area.

Wilson said a vehicle pulled in behind them as they left the area and Woodrum and Shankle told him to run, according to the police report.

Wilson said he told the men he wasn't going to run because he had done nothing wrong. He said he transported the men back to the Shankle residence in Batesville without ever getting his $25.Shankle and Woodrum remain incarcerated at the Fulton County jail.

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