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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Fulton County man facing murder charge in Ash Flat shooting

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

A full-scale manhunt on Saturday, Jan. 5 led to the arrest of Christopher Bryant of Glencoe for the shooting death of a Batesville man. The manhunt for Bryant, 24, began in the early morning hours and continued into the afternoon. All area law enforcement officers initially concentrated on the area where the shooting occurred, near Mark Martin Chevrolet in Ash Flat.

Around 4:32 a.m., an Ash Flat Police officer responded to what was believed to be a motor vehicle accident with a fatality. When the officer arrived, he found the driver appeared to have suffered a gunshot wound to the back of his head. The victim was identified as Sevein Benard Simpson, 25, of Batesville, a black male who was driving the vehicle at the time of the shooting.

According to an affidavit for an arrest warrant filed by Sharp County Sheriff's Department, police interviewed a female passenger in the vehicle, Heather Womack King, 34, of Batesville. King stated she was sleeping in the vehicle as the group of four made their way back from Batesville to Bryant's Glencoe home, when she was awakened by an explosion. King told the investigator that she turned to see her boyfriend's head fall and she grabbed the steering wheel to try to keep the car from crashing. After the crash, Bryant and his girlfriend, later identified as Abbie Nicole Davis, 29, fled from the vehicle with the gun. She said she knew Bryant had shot Benard and did not know why he didn't shoot her. King climbed out of the vehicle and flagged down a vehicle to get help.

A search was launched for both Bryant and Davis, with all officers from all area departments initially concentrating, on the area near Mark Martin Chevrolet in Ash Flat, the area where the shooting occurred. Davis was later taken into custody as she was spotted on Peace Valley Road by an off duty Highland police officer who was on his way to cut wood. Davis told the officer she needed to get to Gibson Box Company in Agnos. The company, on Highway 62-412, is just up the road from the home of Bryant's brother David' . Sharp County Sheriff Mark Counts alerted Fulton County Sheriff Buck Foley of the murder and a Be on the Lookout (BOLO) was issued for Bryant.

It was determined by law enforcement that Bryant's brother was at work in Glencoe at the family business, Stiles Wholesale Grocery, which is owned by Bryant's grandfather. Foley, Chief Deputy Albert Roark, a Fulton County Deputy and DTF agent made their way to the Stiles' farm at Agnos and began to search for Bryant to no avail.

By mid-morning, tracking dogs from Calico Rock's North Central Unit were on the ground following a tip from a woman near Saddle Club Road in Ash Flat who reportedly spotted a man fitting Bryant's description crouching in the woods. The dogs, as well as numerous local law enforcement officers, combed an area near Saddle Club Road, areas near the Ash Flat Ball Park, Ozarka College, and later Sara Circle and Evans Road.

At 1:36 p.m.a passing motorist called Central Dispatch after seeing a man fitting Bryant's description cross Highway 62 near Bransum Road in Ash Flat and enter the woods. Officers responded to the tip and Bryant was taken into custody without a struggle near the area where he was spotted. The gun used in the shooting was located shortly thereafter, when Bryant told officers the gun should be closeby, near the accident scene.

Bryant was arrested and charged with First Degree Murder in the shooting. He was set for first appearance bond hearing on Jan. 7, but as of press time, his bond had not been set.

Both female witnesses were interviewed by Sharp County Detective Dale Weaver and information from their statements was included in the affidavit for the warrant for arrest. Both described a seemingly normal evening before the early morning murder. King, the victim's girlfriend, said the four had left Bryant's residence behind Stile's Discount Grocery in Glencoe and drove to Ash Flat sometime around 10 p.m. While in Ash Flat, the group stopped at the Citgo convenience store. King said, while Simpson was inside the station, Davis and Bryant were "having words" about Bryant having a gun. King said she was aware he had the gun but hadn't seen it. From Ash Flat, the group traveled to the couple's home on Stacy Drive in Batesville. While there, both women said they visited for a few hours, had a friend stop by to visit, then got some carry out food, came back and ate and then headed back to Glencoe. King said she fell asleep and was awakened to the shooting.

In her interview, Davis explained that she and Bryant began dating in December and said she lived with him part time. The day before the murders, she said Benard and King came to the couple's house and stayed the entire day, something that differs in King's account of the day. When Bryant got off work at 5 p.m., the two men played a game of pool before Simpson and King left the Bryant home headed back to their home in Batesville. Davis said, after they left, Bryant showered and Simpson and King returned and asked if they wanted to go to Batesville to their home to " hang out." Davis said around 9:30 or 10 p.m., as they were getting ready to leave, Bryant put a handgun in the front of his pants. Davis said she told her boyfriend he needed to get permission from Simpson to take it, since they would be riding in his vehicle. She said Bryant assured her that Benard said he had no objections to him taking the gun. She said he took it out at the Citgo in Ash Flat, and put it in the floorboard. The remainder of Davis story, including the events at Simpson and Kings home, was identical to that of King until moments before the shooting.

Davis told Weaver that the last thing she remembered was Simpson's seat being reclined, so she had her feet sideways on the console behind him. She said Bryant kissed her, told her he loved her and the next thing she saw was a white flash and the gun explode. She said she saw that Bryant had shot Simpson in the back of the head. Bryant had the gun when the two exited the vehicle after the collision. Davis said he then asked her if she wanted him to also kill King. After replying, "No, why would I?" he said, "Then I'll just kill you *****." Davis said she took off running and heard Bryant fire a shot. She said she ran into the woods on the same side of the road as the accident and told the detective she was trying to make it to her dad's when she was picked up. She said there had been no prior argument and no drinking or drugs as far as she knew, but did tell Weaver during her interview that Bryant had been on pills when she met him in November but believed him to be off of them.

The body of Simpson is being held at Emerson Funeral Home in Jonesboro, pending transport to the Arkansas State Crime Lab in Little Rock for an autoposy.

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