Arkansas Business' 25 Cases of Mystery & Mayhem (25th Anniversary)

by Arkansas Business Staff  on Monday, Mar. 23, 2009 12:00 am  

A lot of strange stuff has happened in Arkansas in recent months – murders, attempted murders, arson, even an executive who simply vanished. But the truth is, a lot of strange stuff has happened during the past 25 years, and a lot of it is still unexplained. Here, starting with the most recent, are cases that still have us scratching our heads.

1. Dr. Trent Pierce
The car bomb explosion that nearly killed West Memphis family practitioner Trent P. Pierce occurred just last month, so there's still plenty of hope that this mystery will be solved.

Pierce, 54 and chairman of the Arkansas State Medical Board, was critically injured about 8 a.m. on Feb. 4 when a homemade explosive device detonated near the front of the hybrid Lexus SUV in his driveway. Pierce lost his left eye in the blast, and he also suffered burns and shrapnel wounds.

The Associated Press reported that Arkansas had not been the scene of a car bomb since 1982. That's when a blasting cap went off under the car of Alice McArthur, wife of Little Rock attorney Bill McArthur. Alice McArthur was shot to death in her home a few moths later, and one of the men convicted of her murder, "Yankee" Hall, confessed to his involvement in the car bomb.

Daryl Crouch, president of the Walsh-Lumpkin Drug Co., was killed in 1987 by a bomb planted in his car on the Texas side of Texarkana.

2. Anne Pressly
The murder of KATV, Channel 7, news anchor Anne Pressly became a staple of national news broadcasts for weeks in late 2008.

Pressly, 26, who had a bit role in the theatrical release "W.," was found near death from a severe beating in her Little Rock home early on the morning of Oct. 20. She died five days later at St. Vincent Infirmary. Only after her death did her parents confirm that she had been raped as well as beaten.

A month later, on Nov. 26, police armed with DNA evidence arrested a Marianna man, Curtis Lavelle Vance, and charged him with capital murder. Vance has pleaded not guilty, but he has not yet been tried. Maybe then Arkansans will learn whether Pressly was targeted or whether she was the victim of a random home invasion.

3. Bill Gwatney
Police have given up on ever figuring out a motive for the murder on Aug. 13, 2008, of Bill Gwatney, prominent car dealer and chairman of the Arkansas Democratic Party.

Timothy D. Johnson, 50, of Searcy, who that morning lost his job in the stock room of a Target store in Conway, entered the Democratic Party headquarters near the state Capitol about noon. He asked to see Gwatney and then shot him three times.

Gwatney died about four hours later. In the meantime, Johnson led police on a 30-minute chase that ended when he wrecked his pickup truck near Sheridan in Grant County. Law enforcement vehicles surrounded the truck, and when Johnson emerged with a gun in his hand, he was shot to death by police officers.

The Little Rock Police Department and the Arkansas State Police closed their cases in November, saying they could never establish any connection between Gwatney and his killer nor any motive for the shooting.

 

 

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