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

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

Jones told the jury that Baker demanded $100,000 for the "sweat equity" he had in Jones' apartments. When Jones refused to pay and threatened to report code violations at the second apartment building, according to Jones' testimony, Baker threatened to kill him and "came around the desk, fishing in his pocket."

Jones shot Baker through the heart with a .38-caliber revolver he kept in his desk drawer.

Prosecutors filed a first-degree murder charge against Jones, and Circuit Judge John Plegge wouldn't allow the jury to consider any lesser charges. Jones was acquitted in 1994.

Within a few weeks of his acquittal, Jones' lawyer confirmed that Jones had applied for $1.25 million in "key man" insurance policies on the life of Dan Baker.

Jones still lives in Little Rock.

20. Johnny Burnett
The murder of pool and spa retailer Johnny Burnett in his Little Rock home in July 1992 is still not officially solved although the case is long since closed. Burnett's estranged wife, Scharmel Bolling Burnett, was acquitted in a retrial in 1994, her first trial having ended in a mistrial. She still lives in Little Rock.

 21. Barrett Hamilton Jr. 
In 1996, Arkansas Business described the life of Dwight Barrett Hamilton Jr. as "almost a classic remake of Jesus' parable of the prodigal son."

Hamilton had inherited a fortune from his father, who founded Barrett Hamilton Inc., one of Arkansas' largest liquor distributorships, shortly after the repeal of Prohibition. He ordered his mother out of the family's California home, which was valued at over $1 million in the 1970s, and cut off her salary. He reduced his two sisters' dividends from company stock and increased his own salary, first to $500,000 and then to $1 million.

In January 1992, the 47-year-old Hamilton was found dead in his suite on the 17th floor of New York's luxurious Hotel Plaza Athenée. The official cause was an accidental cocaine overdose, and his substance abuse apparently dated back at least two decades.

But then there was this: Just weeks before his death, Hamilton had reported death threats to police in Aspen, Colo., where he had a home and had invested in what one newspaper report described as a "high-society" nightclub called the China Club.

22. Larry Ashley
James Larry Ashley is serving life without parole for shooting his wife, Debbie Shepherd Ashley, and leaving her body in the trunk of his Acura at the Little Rock National Airport.

Ashley insisted that the April 1991 shooting was an accident in the course of a tussle over a handgun his wife carried in her purse. A Pulaski County Circuit Court jury believed the prosecutors' version – that Ashley was deeply in debt, on the verge of losing his $80,000-a-year job and desperate to get his hands on some $200,000 in life insurance benefits.



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