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

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

The story could never be confirmed, but her dollars were green enough.

Steele was the living embodiment of nouveau riche, and by mid-2002, the party was completely over. Collection suits and breach-of-contract complaints started stacking up. The IRS came looking for more than $2.5 million, and even houses she had given to friends and relatives were sold – invariably at a loss.

These days, Melanie Steele is living in an apartment in North Little Rock with her mother and teenage daughter, or so we're told.

15. Disney in Arkansas
A persistent mystery in the Arkansas Business newsroom is this: Who keeps spreading an utterly unfounded rumor that The Walt Disney Co. is buying up real estate in Arkansas in preparation for building a centrally located theme park similar to Disneyland in California and Walt Disney World in Florida?

This rumor seems to crop up at least once a year, and reporters dutifully make calls and check records. But there has never been anything to it, and we'd wager a sizable sum that there never will be.

Still, it always brings back fond memories of Gary Wayne Johnson, also known as Ropin' Rodeo Bob, a former Osceola schoolteacher and children's TV show host who spent 1999 trying to interest investors in his vision for Johnson Country USA, a 1,000-acre theme park shaped like the 50 United States and located in Cross County.

16. Dr. Lonnie Parker
Normally, the case of Lonnie Joseph Parker wouldn't be categorized as a mystery. He acknowledges that he had possession of child pornography, and he was convicted in 1998 and sentenced to 37 months in federal prison.

But Parker insists that the images he received by e-mail while attending medical school in Little Rock were unsolicited and that he contacted the FBI immediately and was instructed to hold onto the evidence. His appeal of his conviction was rejected, but his story is so persuasive that he was honorably discharged from the Navy while incarcerated and he has an active, unrestricted license to practice medicine in Arkansas.

17. Morgan Nick
Across the United States, the name for an official police announcement concerning a missing child is an Amber Alert, officially America's Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response, but actually named for 9-year-old Amber Hagerman, who was abducted and murdered in Arlington, Texas, in 1995.

But in Arkansas, these ominous announcements are called Morgan Nick alerts, in memory of a 6-year-old girl who was last seen emptying sand out of her shoes in the parking lot of a city park in Alma (Crawford County) on June 9, 1995.

No trace of Morgan has been found.

18. Oklahoma City Bombing
Timothy McVeigh told biographers that he considered bombing the 40-story building in downtown Little Rock then known as the TCBY Tower before deciding instead to blow up the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995.



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