A review of stories from July to December
The second half of 2004 was a turbulent time in Fulton and Izard counties. Major news events from July to December included two unsolved murders, a major methamphetamine operation drug bust, a tragic explosion inside a coop sub-station, the election of new judges and sheriffs in Izard and Fulton counties and a rare event -- a white Christmas.
JULY: Timothy J. Est, 20, was sentenced to seven years in prison after Circuit Judge Tim Weaver found him guilty of second degree murder in the 2002 death of Fulton County resident Russell "Joe" Fisk.
Jesse Petty, 21, was sentenced to 20 years in prison in connection with the same case. Petty's sentence was longer because of previous drug convictions.
An Oxford man, Danny Morgan, 29, was shot and killed allegedly by his estranged girlfriend after an altercation at her Sidney home. No charges have been filed.
A Salem man, Larry Eugene Bell, 40, was sentenced to 16 years in prison after a Fulton County jury found him guilty of manufacturing methamphetamine.
Robert L. Sanders, 35, of Horseshoe Bend was sentenced to 54 years in prison after he pleaded guilty to raping and physically abusing his wife.
AUGUST: A proposal by the Horseshoe Bend MRID to lower Crown Lake for the purpose of repairing a boat ramp encountered strong opposition by lakefront property owners. The Horseshoe Bend MRID initially voted to lower the lake, but the outcry from lakefront property owners convinced the MRID commissioners to rescind that decision.
A Salem man, Eric Broyles, 18, was charged with burglary after stealing money from Immanuel Baptist Church and First Assembly of God Church, both in Salem. Two other Salem teens, Joseph Barr, 18, and Christopher Christie, 19, were also charged in the case. The three were convicted in Fulton County Court Nov. 8.
Izard County Sheriff Joe Martz suffered from cracked ribs, bruises and scratches after a fight with an Izard County man, Brent Allen Dale. Dale, 36, was involved in a domestic dispute with his wife inside their home when Martz arrived and intervened. Dale was charged with assault and battery.
In Horseshoe Bend, the city council rejected the nomination of Daniel Grover to replace outgoing Alderman Owen Cluts because of the appearance of Grover's yard. In a heated exchange, Alderman Smiley Lenhard told Grover to clean up his yard, to which Grover replied, "Unless you live my life, then stay the hell out of my life." Grover was not appointed to the council in August but because of a state law requiring all vacant city council seats to be filled in a timely fashion, Grover was appointed to Cluts' vacated seat in September.
SEPTEMBER: A Magnolia man was murdered in Wheeling. David Stone, 49, was shot by an unknown assailant through a window while visiting a friend. Investigators have several leads in the case, but the shooting remains unsolved.
Three area men died and a fourth was seriously injured after an explosion inside a North Arkansas Electric Coop sub-station in Mountain Home. Desi Jones, 41, Ivey Hodge, 59, Jesse Zimmer, 27, and Chris Hickman, 26, were removing a regulator when the blast occurred. Jones, Hodge and Zimmer died as a result of their injuries. The exact cause of the blast has not been determined.
Gov. Mike Huckabee spoke at a rally for Arkansas House of Representatives District 82 candidate Diane Turner. Turner's rally was held at the Hickinbotham-Miller Building at the Fulton County Fairgrounds.
Former 16th Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney T.J. Hively was sentenced to three years in prison after being convicted of four counts of mail fraud and one count of racketeering.
The body of 22-year-old college student Rebekah Gould was discovered near a wooded embankment on Highway 9, 5 miles west of Melbourne. Gould had been missing for six days when her body was discovered. Lt. Bill Beach of the Arkansas State Police said investigators have followed multiple leads in the case but no arrests have been made.
Two Fulton County natives who law officers believe to be the heads of the largest methamphetamine manufacturing operation in northern Arkansas were arrested after routine traffic stop in Mitchell. Newton "Bubba" Willingham, 31, and Rhonda Due, 39, have been charged with multiple drug offenses and are facing federal indictment. Bonds for Willingham and Due were set at $1 million apiece.
OCTOBER: Drug Task Force Chief Scott Russell said officers with the task force received credible death threats in connection with the arrests of Newton Willingham and Rhonda Due.
The Salem School District finished fifth and the Melbourne School District finished sixth in academic rating among all school districts in the state. The results were released to the public during the Golden Apple Ceremony in Little Rock. The ratings were based on the percentage of students who tested at a competent level or above on several standardized tests.
Tropical Depression Matthew dumped 5 inches of rain over the second weekend of the month. The rain was a relief for the tri-county area after it suffered one of the driest Septembers on record.
A 63-year-old Izard County man was charged in Independence County with one count of child rape. Darry G. Reppond, who had been convicted of sexually abusing children on multiple occasions, was charged after the stepfather of an 8-year-old girl discovered Reppond fondling the girl in her home, authorities said.
Attorney General Mike Beebe visited Fulton County, promoting local Democratic candidates for office.
NOVEMBER: Charles Willett of Salem was elected Fulton County judge after a close race with Republican opponent Gary Phillips.
Former Fulton County Judge Curren Everett was elected to the Arkansas House of Representatives District 82 seat.
In Izard County, Rayburn Finley was elected county judge and Tate Lawrence was elected sheriff. County voters rejected a sales tax increase that would have allowed the county to implement Emergency 9-1-1 service. A record number of Fulton County residents voted in the election.
The Melbourne School Board fired agriculture teacher Steven Mitchell who had been arrested on multiple sex abuse charges earlier in the year.
A proposed assessment increase by the Horseshoe Bend MRID was rejected by the Horseshoe Bend City Council in a 5-3 vote.
DECEMBER: A local business owner garnered statewide attention after she accused Salem City Attorney Dwayne Plumlee of negligence for not prosecuting a Bank of Salem teller who stole money from nightly deposits. Debbie Fountain, owner of the Salem Fuel Center, claimed in a Dec. 6 Arkansas Business article that teller Sandra Layne stole $12,000 from her deposits. Plumlee, a Bank of Salem board member, was later removed from the case by Prosecuting Attorney Don McSpadden.
A 2001 Salem High School graduate, Marine Cpl. Jason Clairday, was fatally wounded after a gun fight with insurgents near Fallujah, Iraq. Clairday was laid to rest in the Camp Cemetery. He is survived by his parents and his wife, Sarah.
The year closed with a rare holiday treat, a white Christmas. Over 6 inches of snow fell Dec. 22 and Dec. 23, blanketing all of northern Arkansas.