Convicted felon Mario D. Easter will face the death penalty for the killing of Stanley Milner, 31, of Waldo in August 2019.
Originally, the state was not going to seek the death penalty for Easter, 40, but Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Ryan Phillips said that has changed and is up to 13th Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney Jeffrey Rogers.
Easter’s attorney, Public Defender Darren Nelson seemed surprised by the news in Circuit Judge David Talley’s courtroom.
“My only thought is if we are going to go full death, I need to get more people hired,” he said. “This is going to change the whole dynamic of what I need to do. I’ve been trying to get the death penalty waived.”
Nelson said in death penalty cases in Arkansas, two defense lawyers are required. One is an investigator and the other is a mitigation attorney.
Easter appeared with Nelson, who wore the all-white Arkansas Department of Corrections jumpsuit. He showed no visible reaction to the proceedings. The case will be discussed in December’s next criminal court date, December 16, but Talley said there would be no need for Easter to be transported to Magnolia from prison for this discussion.
Easter is accused of premediated and deliberately killing Miller by firing multiple shots from a handgun, striking the victim in the head. According to the incident report, Waldo and Magnolia police, and Columbia County deputies, were called out to North Locust Street in Waldo almost at midnight on August 6, 2019, to find Milner’s body lying in the middle of North Locust Street in Waldo.
Waldo Police Chief Reggie Ellis contacted citizens and one informant said he had heard three gunshots. The informant said he had seen Easter walking from where the body was located wearing a black ball cap with no wording on it. Milner’s body had multiple gunshots to the head and the neck, according to the incident report.
Another individual said he did not see the shooting but heard the shots and saw Easter walking away from where the body was located. Other witnesses also heard the shots and one person said they saw a black SUV leaving the scene and knew that Easter has a family member that owns a vehicle like the one they described, and that Easter had been at the family member’s residence before and after the shooting.
According to the probable cause affidavit, a person who knew Easter was questioned about 12:34 a.m. on August 7, 2019, at the Columbia County Jail. This person said Easter was armed at the time he came to their home. They described the gun he had as a big gun.
“This person was nervous as to how Mario was acting,” the affidavit reads. “(Easter) was saying things like ‘they are coming to kill me,’ and they may try to burn the house down. This person asked him what was going on and he would not respond to the questions. Once in Waldo, this person was close to a friend’s home and asked Mario to let them out of the car.”
At nearly 2 a.m. on August 7, 2019, officers spotted the car they suspected Easter to be in at the Main Even in Magnolia, the affidavit reads. In the front passenger’s seat of the vehicle was a loaded Tech 9-semi-automatic with an extended magazine. Easter was arrested on the warrant for capital murder and arrested for a possession of a firearm by a certain person.
As he was in the jail to be questioned, Easter told officers he did not have anything to say and that he would represent himself in his case.
Easter has a record of previous arrests in Columbia County, with his most recent record prior to the homicide coming in September 2010. According to court records, he entered a plea of guilty to a charge of failure to appear. He received a 60-month suspended imposition of sentence.
Prior to that, he entered a guilty plea to the manufacture, delivery and possession of methamphetamine, for which he also received a 60-month suspended imposition of sentence in 2009.
Previous charges of terroristic threatening, possession of a firearm by certain persons were not prosecuted. Easter was also found guilty of making and delivering meth in 1999, when he was 20.