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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Salem native named assistant U.S. attorney

Thursday, November 7, 2002

Prosecuting criminals runs in the Plumlee family. Chris Plumlee, son of Karen and Dwayne Plumlee, deputy prosecuting attorney for the 16th Judicial District, has been promoted to assistant U.S. attorney in Fort Smith Nov. 4.

Plumlee was sworn in by U.S. District Judge Jimm Larry Hendren at 11:30 a.m at the federal courthouse in Fayetteville.

After growing up in Salem and graduating from Salem High School, Plumlee left his hometown in 1989, and like his father, who has been a deputy prosecutor for 16 years, began the process of attaining a law degree. In 1993 he graduated from UCA and from there he attended the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville.

After graduation he started as a law clerk in Benton County in April 1995.

Plumlee is a longtime Benton County deputy prosecutor who has tried more than 30 criminal cases. The Department of Justice allocated an assistant United States attorney to be hired in each of the 94 United States attorney offices. The newly created jobs are under Project Sentry, designed to address gun violence and drug trafficking.

A common bond exists between Plumlee and his former boss, Benton County Prosecuting Attorney Robert Balfe. Balfe hails from Plumlee's neighboring town and is a 1986 graduate from Highland High School. He is the son of Janice and John Rabon of Ash Flat.

Balfe said Plumlee worked with him for seven years and has been a great trial attorney and a good administrator. "He has been my right-hand man and a good friend. We will miss him tremendously," he said.

Now he will be prosecuting crimes at the federal level instead of the state level.

Plumlee said this has been a career goal of his for some time and it will provide him with an opportunity to continue to the next level and prosecute different types of crimes. "I'm excited about it. I watched my dad prosecuting cases while I was growing up," he said.

He has made many friends since that time and said he has enjoying working with judges and tried some tough cases. He has helped try over 30 felony jury cases and had a wide variety of cases he worked on personally.

Two cases in particular he vividly remembers. Plumlee tried as second chair the Ricky Crisp murder trials. A Benton County Circuit Court jury in 1999 convicted Crisp of two counts of second-degree murder. Crisp was sentenced to 14 years in prison but has been granted parole and could be released as early as December.

He said Crisp had originally been charged with two counts of capital felony murder in the April 1998 death of his daughter, Vicky Crisp, 16 months, and her cousin, Sidney Pippin, 4 months.

The toddler and infant died from heat stroke after they were left strapped in their car seats with the car windows rolled up while Crisp and a friend hunted for arrowheads.

Plumlee also assisted in the capital murder trial of James Arnold Baughman who was convicted Nov. 9, 2001, in the murders of James Floyd Suggs and Joanna Kneece at a Pea Ridge home Oct. 30, 1999.

Baughman is serving a sentence of life in prison without parole for killing Kneece and 20 years in prison for the death of Suggs.

"We are proud of him and his accomplishment," said Karen Plumlee.

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