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Inmate attacks rape suspect

Thursday, November 20, 2003

Staff Writer

Two inmates accused of rape were threatened by another prisoner and one was attacked Nov. 13 in the Izard County Detention Center.

According to an incident report, inmate R. Fletcher, assigned to B-block, told authorities to either transfer him or remove accused rapists Chuck Simmons and Les Dennison from the cell. Fletcher told officers that his children had been sexually assaulted and he refused to remain in the cell with the two, according to officer Gary Bales.

Fletcher then ran over to a table in the dayroom where Dennison was sitting and shoved him and his chair against the wall. Fletcher was restrained with no further resistance, Bales said.

Fletcher was escorted to a holding cell. Bales said Dennison was not injured. He told authorities he was sore but did not require medical attention.

Both Simmons and Dennison have been removed from the general inmate population.

One day prior to the jail incident Izard County officials were dealing with threats in connection to the upcoming trial of six suspects accused of raping five victims.

Security was beefed up during the arraignment hearing Nov. 12 at the Izard County Courthouse after threatening letters were sent to the Horseshoe Bend police chief and a defendant, Bill O'Brien, in the upcoming rape trial.

The Izard County Courthouse was equipped with walk-through metal detectors, hand-held wands and extra law enforcement for the arraignment hearing for five of the suspects, who are accused of being involved in a sex ring in Horseshoe Bend.

Sheriff Joe Martz served five warrants of arrest for Charles Simmons, Bill O'Brien, William Les Dennison, Ken Clodfelter and Derry Reed at the courthouse prior to the hearing.

Authorities took the extra precautions also because of the two anonymous letters that were mailed in connection with the upcoming trial. Both letters were postmarked in Batesville Nov. 7.

O'Brien's letter was made from letters cut from a newspaper article, Attorney Larry Kissee said, and pasted onto a page. The letter read. "We know what you did, are you next?"

A newspaper headline about convicted murderer Wayne DuMond and his trial was below the first message. The headline read "Castrated rapist in murder trial," Kissee said.

Mitchell said when he checked the mail Nov. 10 he also found an envelope with the same postmark and handwriting as O'Brien's letter.

Inside the envelope was a headline cut from the International page of the Nov. 2 edition of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that read, "Who do you call when the police are the criminals?" Mitchell also received a second message which said "Your reputation is growing."

Mitchell said he didn't see the letter as a threat but as an annoyance and an insult. He said, "My whole career as a police officer has been real important to me and my credibility."

Kissee said the extra security stemmed from not only these threats, but also threats made against Simmons, who claimed that someone had made gesturing threats to him after a court hearing in April in Izard County.

Five of the six men charged in the rape of five juveniles entered not guilty pleas at the hearing. The sixth suspect also plans to enter a not guilty plea his attorney said.

Chuck Simmons, 47, the former Horseshoe Bend recorder/treasurer, faces charges of six counts of rape, one count of first-degree sexual abuse and one count of producing, directing or promoting a sexual performance.

Simmons' former attorney, Kissee, said J.E. Bonding Company revoked Simmons' bond at the hearing because Simmons had used his house in Horseshoe Bend as security, but the house has since been foreclosed on.

Since his bond was revoked Circuit Judge John Dan Kemp ordered that Simmons be taken into custody until he is able to post bond.

Even though Kissee has withdrawn as Simmons' attorney he still appealed to the judge to free Simmons because his former client has always returned for his court appearances, Kissee said.

William O'Brien, 45, of Horseshoe Bend is charged with two counts of rape, first-degree sexual abuse, third-degree carnal abuse and producing, directing or promoting a sexual performance.

Derry Reed, 40, of Salem faces charges of two counts of rape, first-degree sexual abuse, and engaging children in sexually explicit conduct for use in visual or print medium.

Ken Clodfelter, 44, of Salem was charged with two counts of conspiracy to commit rape.

William Les Dennison, 41, of Horseshoe Bend has been charged with two counts of rape, and producing, directing or promoting a sexual performance.

Izard County Sheriff Joe Martz said his office faxed a warrant of arrest for Jason Willbanks, 28, to West Plains, Mo.

Willbanks' attorney, Gary Vinson, of Batesville said, "This was a complete surprise to him (Willbanks)." He said his client heard his name broadcast on the radio and didn't know what was going on. As soon as a court date is scheduled Vinson said he will enter a not guilty plea on behalf of his client.

Vinson said his client admitted he knew some of the defendants in the case.

Howell County Sheriff Bill Shephard said Willbanks was arrested by criminal investigator Lynn Rhoads at the sheriff's office. He waived extradition and was transported to Izard County Sheriff's Office Nov. 14.

Willbanks posted bond in the amount of $40,000 and was released the same day. Willbanks has returned to his job at Taylor Pharmacy in West Plains where he is employed as a pharmacy technician, according to a spokeswoman at the pharmacy.

Kissee said he heard a gag order had been requested on the case, but it was not granted because the request was not made by any of the defendants in the case.

A new trial date has been set for April 26 by Kemp.

Kemp also granted a motion filed by Kissee to withdraw as Simmons' attorney.

Kissee is Simmons' third attorney to withdraw for nonpayment.

Simmons told the court that he is destitute, Kissee said, so Kemp set a court hearing Dec. 1 to determine if he is eligible for a public defender. His bond was set at $50,000. He remains at the Izard County Detention Center.

O'Brien requested a public defender at his court hearing but an interview determined that he was not eligible for the service because of his real estate assets, so Kissee said he will represent him.

O'Brien was freed after he posted bond in the amount of $50,000.

The courts ruled that Dennison was eligible for a public defender and his bond was set at $50,000. He remains at the Izard County Detention Center.

Reed and Clodfelter were both released after each posted a $20,000 bond.

Salem Police Chief Albert Roork said Attorney Gray Dellinger, who represents Clodfelter, requested he write a letter to the state saying Reed and Clodfelter were not a flight risk because they owned property in Fulton County, and Roork complied.

Reed is represented by Jim Rose of Fayetteville.

Clodfelter said, "Derry Reed and I are completely innocent of these charges and we wish to thank the strong community support that has been shown for us. We also wish to thank Sheriff Martz of Izard County for the professionalism he showed during the arraignment hearing."

In addition to Simmons, O'Brien, Dennison and Willbanks are also scheduled to appear in Cleburne County Circuit Court Dec. 1.

The arrests stem from an incident on Dec. 11, 2000, when a juvenile told Lorelei Sellers-Steele, Arkansas State Police investigator, that Simmons had had sex with him at least 35 times from 1997 to 2000.

A civil lawsuit filed by families of the victims in June 2001 alleges that some of the defendants sexually assaulted three boys and engaged in a sex ring conspiracy.



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