Circuit Court Judge David Talley heard several cases and sent several people to prison Wednesday in a special session of the criminal division of Columbia County Circuit Court.
Seth Bennom Otwell received two-year sentences for revocation of an effective sentence of four years for breaking and entering, possession of a controlled substance, possession of drug paraphernalia, criminal mischief and being a habitual offender. He also received four years suspended imposition of sentence (SIS).
In Otwell’s case there was a hearing to discuss primarily two matters. The first was that he refused to give provide a drug sample to probation officers on April 1, after being brought to jail for harassing communications Magnolia police department on February 10 and for violating a protective order on March 31.
Otwell, 30, claimed he was asleep when Arkansas Community Corrections Parole Officer Thomas Fenske asked for the sample on April 1. Fenske testified that Otwell gave verbal notification that he would not provide the sample and had a signed document with Otwell’s signature to back it up.
Fenske told the court that if Otwell was asleep he was awakened to be told about the test. Sitting by his attorney, Public Defender Jessica Yarbrough, Otwell said aloud in court, “I was high.”
Also during the hearing, the events of April 6 at the residence of Kristy Lawrence were discussed. Lawrence said at about 5 to 5:30 p.m. that day she heard a loud noise at the front door and went to check what happened. When she got to the door she saw a man she didn’t know. She identified Otwell as that man.
“The first thing I noticed when I opened the door and he had no shirt on and a knife in stuck in his pants. The second thing I noticed was that he was standing there with his fists all balled up. His demeanor at that time was angry.”
Lawrence said she was at home alone with her 13-year-old daughter and her daughter’s friend. She said she immediately shut the door and locked it and locked the girls inside a closet, calling 911.
She said Otwell did not remove the knife from his pants but once he got under the carport he started calling her Tiffany and saying that she was hiding someone in her house. She said she did not see him attempt to enter the home.
After Lawrence was questioned by Yarbrough, Otwell asked in the judge in open court if he could apologize to Lawrence as she attempted to return to her seat. Otwell stood up and looked toward her and said that he was sorry.
“I feel bad right now,” he said. “I’m sorry for scaring you and your daughter. You know I was really bad off that day.”
Taylor Police Chief Rick Wyrick testified next and said that when he arrived at the house Otwell was behind and to the side of the house. He said Otwell complied and took his belt off with the knife but kept warning officers not to touch him.
“He kept saying don’t put your hands on me,” Wyrick said. “I think he was disoriented … he did state he was looking for someone at the residence.”
Columbia County Deputy Brian Palmer took the stand following Wyrick and said when he showed up Otwell was already in handcuffs. He said he noted the white front door appeared to have been kicked. Palmer said he took witness statements from Lawrence and the young girls. He said Otwell seemed disoriented.
“He was sweating a lot and rambling, talking a lot,” Palmer said. “Other than that, I’ve known Mr. Otwell a long time. He didn’t seem like he knew where he was at.”
Columbia County Sheriff’s Office Detective Leroy Martin testified next and brought a brown paper sack on the stand with him. Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Ryan Phillips asked him to reveal what was in the bag and he showed the courtroom a silver flask and a small black bag containing syringes, razor blades and rollup papers.
Martin said the bag was sent to the University of Arkansas at Hope crime lab and found to contain methamphetamine.
Otwell was the final person to take the stand during the hearing. He told Phillips he kicked in the door at Lawrence’s home because he thought a friend was in danger.
“I was just trying to save a friend of mine from the house, but I was at the completely wrong house,” he said. “I was disoriented.”
Otwell also told Phillips about the April 1 case where he did not provide a urine test.
“I didn’t verbally refuse the test. All I told him was that I couldn’t use the restroom right now. He said he would come back but he never did.”
Phillips questioned Otwell about the day he kicked in the door at Lawrence’s home. Otwell said he had been out working in the yard with the knife and had seen a message on Facebook about his friend needing help at a home in Taylor. He said he began jogging and then another friend picked him up and he advised her to take him to Taylor.
“I checked Facebook and I thought he was about to get shot,” he said. “I was under the influence of alcohol and meth so I did not call law enforcement.”
Before the hearing Otwell had requested from the judge copies of his case so he can work on them while in prison.
Other cases from Wednesday:
Mark Hampton was sentenced to six years in the ADC and SIS for 10 years for the charges of burglary-residential and theft of property up to $1,000. After police received a call about a suspicious person, Hampton was found to have been riding his bicycle on Highway 98. When police tried to stop him, he threw a backpack in the woods which contained a Smith & Wesson firearm. Hampton has been previously convicted of a battery in 2011 and cannot legally carry a firearm.
Darrel Martin was sentenced to six years in ADC six years of SIS for terroristic threatening and possession of firearms by certain persons.
Justin Eddy was sentenced to three years in the ADC and SIS for 45 months and assigned a $1,000 fee during his revocation hearing. Eddy broke probation by not letting his probation officers know he was out of town with a sick aunt in El Dorado when he was supposed to report. He also was in the possession of methamphetamine.
Kellie Otwell was sentenced to two years in the ADC and her probation was revoked and she received SIS for 47 months for violating her probation.
Kellie Otwell broke her probation by using drugs and told the judge she has been using them since 2014. While Yarbrough asked the judge if her client could go back to the River Ridge Treatment Center for the 35-day program she completed before but Talley refused. He encouraged her to take part in the drug rehabilitation program at the ADC before paroling.
“I think in 40 to 50 years you will see the investment in the ADC program,” he said.
Ricardo Morales plead guilty to violating the terms of suspended imposition of sentencing and was placed on probation for six years.
Donna Cochran was sentenced to two years in the Arkansas Department of Corrections and 10 years SIS for violating her probation and associating with a felon and testing positive multiple times for alcohol, methamphetamine and amphetamine.
Talley told Cochran that she must enroll in the substance abuse program in prison or risk having her SIS revoked upon parole.
Fredregus Leaks, in court for revocation-probation, was given another chance to go into the drug court program but with a stern warning that if he fails in any way to meet the criteria of the program there will be no more opportunities.
Rodney Johnson will be back in court on November 18 after turning down an offer of 10 years in ADC and 10 years SIS for delivery of methamphetamine or cocaine.
Sean Long was found guilty of commercial burglary and theft of property of $1,000. He was given probation of five years and fined $100 in addition to a DNA fee he still has of $250. Although Long had paid all the fees required to him despite one, and completed more community service than required for the Alternative Sentencing Program, he refused to complete the GED portion of the program.
Joshua McGaugh, in court for theft of property up to $1,000 refused the state’s offer of five years’ probation and instead wants to have a trial. Talley told him he could face up to 6 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fee. His case was passed to November 14.
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