Violence dominated the news in Phillips County, the state of Arkansas and the nation during 2012.
The gruesome slayings didn't come all at once here at home like they did in the recent shooting rampage that took pace in Newtown, Conn. that took the lives of 28 people, including 20 precious 6- and 7-year-old children. Instead, the tragic deaths of children and parents occurred one at a time in Phillips County.
Violence dominated the news in Phillips County, the state of Arkansas and the nation during 2012. The gruesome slayings didn't come all at once here at home like they did in the recent shooting rampage that took pace in Newtown, Conn. that took the lives of 28 people, including 20 precious 6- and 7-year-old children. Instead, the tragic deaths of children and parents occurred one at a time in Phillips County. Perhaps the biggest crime story of the year here at home was the guilty pleas of a number of defendants in a sweeping drug and corruption investigation called “Operation Delta Blues”. Four former law enforcement officers indicted in the probe pled guilty to various charges. A federal jury also convicted former Helena-West Helena police officer Marlene Kalb of extortion and drug charges in December. Robert “Bam Bam” Rogers pled guilty to an extortion charge back in January. In exchange for the guilty plea, federal prosecutors dropped multiple charged against the former Helena-West Helena police officer. He was later sentenced to 14 months in prison and released. Former Phillips County Sheriff's Deputy Dean Jackson pled guilty to a drug-related charge in connection with “Operation Delta Blues”. In exchanged for the guilty plea, federal prosecutors agreed to drop two other charges against Jackson. Ex-H-WHPD officer Herman Eaton pled guilty to extortion in “Operation Delta Blues.” Federal prosecutors agreed to drop remaining charges against Eaton. Henry Ravery was shot and beaten at his home on Cherry Street on January 28. Ravery told police that the assailants took all of his money and stole his car. On January 25, Shay Branch, 22 of Helena-West Helena was critically injured in a hit-and-run accident at the corner of York and Franklin streets. Jasmine Smith, 23, and Eddie Henry later turned themselves into police. Albert Cooper Jr. was found was found stabbed to death in the 100 block of North 6th Street on March 11. Peggy Barnes, 38, was arrested and charged with delivery of a controlled substance, methamphetamines, possession of meth and possession of drug paraphernalia. Adrian Matthews was arrested and charged with the shooting and robbery of Nicholas Ward on April 21. On May 10 in Phillips County Circuit Court, Desha Anthony and Brianna Smith entered guilty pleas of second-degree murder and the hindering of the apprehension of fugitive in connection with the 2011 slaying of Steven Clement. The Phillips County Sheriff's Department investigated an apparent drug overdose of a 23-year-old woman and a shooting incident near the Oneida community in July. In August, Jimmy Lee Ross Jr. and Markel Wilson were charged with a felony terroristic act, aggravated assault, endangering the welfare of a minor and the unlawful discharge of a firearm from a vehicle. The offenses occurred during a gun battle in a housing area. A 5-year-old female was struck in the arm by a bullet fragment. A “routine” traffic stop in Marvell on Aug. 9 resulted in the confiscation of cash, marijuana, a semi-automatic weapon and an automobile. Marcus Hughes received 60 months in prison for drug trafficking and conspiracy in connection with “Operation Delta Blues”. It was the minimum sentence for the conviction. Also in August, two other “Operation Delta Blues” defendants were sentenced. Emmett “Smack” Smith III received 12 and ½ years in prison and Joseph Hall got 14 months. Both pled guilty to conspiracy and possession of a controlled substance. Nightclub owner Wayne Webb was scheduled to be sentenced Dec. 20 on a money-laundering charge. Under a plea agreement, Webb faced 3 years probation and a $4,000 fine. The Marvell branch of Helena National Bank was robbed at gunpoint on Sept. 7. The alleged robber, Kim Derick Jackson, 47 of DeWitt, was caught fleeing the scene by MPD officer Robert Nearns Jr. A 17-year-old was arrested and charged with handgun possession by a minor on school property and disorderly conduct. Michael Wayne Webb and Marcus “Pig” Thompson pled guilty in “Operation Delta Blues. Webb pled guilty to possession of a firearm and furtherance of drug trafficking. Thompson pled guilty to discharging a firearm and furtherance of drug trafficking. Also Donnie “The Mechanic” Mitchell and Jarvis Washington pled guilty to conspiracy to distribute cocaine. Mark Abernathy, 35, was arrested and charged with the rape and assault of a 12-year-old girl in November. In Phillips County Circuit Court, Omar Henry, 25, pled guilty to second-degree murder in the Aug. 24, 2011 shooting death of 19-year-old Jerry Henry. Gary Robinson Jr. was arrested and charged with the shooting death of 47-year-old John Braggs at his Market Street residence on Nov. 30. Robinson was allegedly firing shots randomly on Braggs' property. Melvin Washington Jr. was charged as an accomplice for supply Robinson, a convicted felon, with a gun. Denzell (Duelly) Jackson, Russell Jackson and Terrance Hill were arrested on drug-related charges while H-WHPD officers were investigating the shooting of Derrick Deon Rose. Helena-West Helena's parks director was arrested and charged with two counts of sexual assault and indecent exposure. Mayor Arnell Willis suspended Anthony Banks with pay. State wildlife officers shot and killed Darryl Vance Parker of Elaine after parker allegedly attempted to run down and Arkansas State trooper with his pickup truck on Dec. 14. The charred remains of an unidentified male were found Dec. 19 on the side of the road on Highway 44 just north of Highway 242 South. The body was sent to the Arkansas Medical Examiner in Little Rock for an autopsy.