Five men have been arrested for the murder of an Agnos man who was found dead in his home June 24 with a leather belt wrapped around his neck.
Brian Keith Shankle, 18, and Bobby Woodrum, 18, were arrested June 27 at Boggy Landing near Elizabeth by the Arkansas State Police SWAT team and charged with capital murder for the death of Russell "Joe" Fisk, said 16th Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney Don McSpadden. Special Agent Tommy Cleveland of the Arkansas State Police said one of the suspects had a .22-caliber handgun in his possession at the time of the arrest.
Special Agent Mack Thompson said 25 members of the SWAT team, five of whom were reconnaissance snipers, and a hostage negotiator worked surveillance on the pair using night vision and thermal imaging equipment.
Thompson said their job was to secure the perimeter and feed intelligence to the team. Thompson said the goal of the SWAT team is to get the job done and not to injure any party in the process.
The other three men, Jessie Petty, 20, Billy Jack Wilson, 26, and Timothy Est, 19, were arrested June 28 in Independence County and are being held at the Independence County jail on charges of first-degree murder, said Fulton County Deputy Paul Martin. Circuit Judge Keith Rutledge set bond at $100,000 for each of the three.
"All the officers involved worked very hard. They put a lot of hours in without sleep, checking leads and doing interviews. They did an excellent job and wrapped it up in a very short time, and nobody got hurt. I commend them," said Salem Police Chief Albert Roork.
An affidavit recorded in the clerk's office said a witness reported having seen a small white station wagon with Arkansas handicapped license plates parked near the victim's residence around 6 p.m. June 24. The witness noted a female sitting in the vehicle with three males walking in the road within 50 feet of the driveway of the victim's house.
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 handicapped 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 stating 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 "Jessie" 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 she described as something that 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 at some point 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 states 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 that Woodrum and Shankle went inside and argued with Fisk about the money owed. 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 the affidavit signed by Arkansas State Police CID Special Agent Jeff Stone, his examination of the crime scene, specifically the condition of the victim's body, would tend to refute Woodrum's self defense assertion, specifically in view of the strangling device found around the victim's neck.
Through further investigation, officers located and interviewed Billy Jack Wilson in Batesville. Wilson, by his admission, 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, according to the affidavit. The affidavit noted Wilson told authorities Woodrum and Shankle stated 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 said the men were extremely nervous and in a hurry to leave the area, according to the report.
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, according to the affidavit.
Shankle and Woodrum were denied bail after appearing before Circuit Judge John Dan Kemp at the Stone County Courthouse for their formal arraignment, said Martin.
Fulton County Sheriff Lloyd Martz said Independence County Detective Sgt. Keith Bowers provided his office with help locating the suspects.
McSpadden said, "This came out a lot faster than what I thought it would based on the leads authorities received. It came together real quick."