Sunday, October 19, 2008

Law and Order in the Ozarks (Part VII): Catching up

Several issues of the Newton County Times accumulated while I was on vacation, so I'll use this post to get caught up on crime in the county for the past month or so, as reported in the weekly newspaper.

No single big story broke in these three issues, so they feature mostly updates on previously reported crimes. One exception is a story under the headline: “Blue Hole reopened on the Buffalo.” Blue Hole is a recreation area (a/k/a swimming hole) on the Buffalo National River, and the story reports that two fires destroyed restrooms there in March and July of this year. Residents had apparently “requested improvements” at this location, which led the park superintendent to have a “$16,000 manufactured restroom” placed there. After it was burned in March, a new park superintendent ordered it replaced as soon as possible. The second restroom was placed at the site in July and burned less than 24 hours later. The particularly short life of the second restroom makes me wonder if the crime reflects a grudge against the federal government, or at least anti-government sentiment. Of course, it might also be random but highly efficient vandalism.

Other headlines and stories include these:

  • “Test results could conclude murder probe” is the headline for a story that follows up on the murder of a 77-year-old man in his “getaway” cabin in Ponca in mid-August. The story is rather opaque in a few regards. Unspecified details include the nature of the “tests” noted in the headline, which we are told will inform “the ultimate decision as to whether there need to be charges filed.” Also curious – and consistent with past coverage of the murder – is the fact that the victim’s wife “had been in and out of the cabin for a couple of days before husband’s body was discovered” in an “advanced state of decomposition.”
  • "Criminal cases adjudicated” provides updates on some pending cases, mostly involving property crime.Two male defendants, aged 39 and 40, were charged with taking copper wire and selling it to a salvage business.The men also broke some locks in the course of the theft.The two were found guilty of theft of property.Each was sentenced to 10 years probation and ordered to pay restitution of $12,000.In a separate incident, a 27-year-old man was found guilty of breaking or entering and theft for entering a barn and taking tools and tool boxes.He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 150 days in a “regional punishment facility.”He will also serve 48 mos. probation and pay $649 in restitution.

  • That story also offers a correction regarding a case updated a few weeks ago. The earlier story reported that, for unknown reasons, charges of arson and theft had been dropped against a 51-year-old man. This week’s correction clarifies that the charges were dismissed because the defendant has died.

  • In other law-related news, the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission announced a new enforcement officer for the county. He happens to be a Newton County native who is returning to the area to take the job, having served the past 8 years as a combat engineer in the Army Reserves. This story, as well as the first one noted above, is a reminder of the significance of state and federal park rangers in the context of sparsely populated counties with few law enforcement resources.

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