Killer disavows court filings on his behalf
PARAGOULD — A Trumann man sitting on death row for killing a police officer said in a court filing in Greene County he wants nothing to do with an effort to have him released.
Jerry Lard’s handwritten motion came in response to a lawsuit filed February 8 on his behalf by a man Lard claims not to know.
Someone named Jeremy Edward Ellis, who claimed to be Lard’s “next friend and putative guardian ad litem,” filed a “petition for a writ of habeas corpus and for other relief” on Feb. 8, naming the state, Dexter Payne, director of the Arkansas Department of Corrections, and retired Judge Brent Davis as defendants.
Davis presided over Lard’s capital murder trial, which was held on a change of venue in July 2012, in Greene County Circuit Court.
Lard killed Trumann police officer Jonathan Schmidt and wounded Sgt. Corey Overstreet during a traffic stop on April 12, 2011.
Ellis asked the court to issue a warrant to arrest the former judge for certain illegal activity associated with the trial and to hold a hearing to exonerate Lard of the murder conviction.
Ellis identified by name another man whom he claims was the actual killer. During the trial, the jury watched police dash camera video depicting Lard committing the crime.
On March 14, the state attorney general’s office filed a motion to quash summonses for Payne and Davis that were issued by the Greene County circuit clerk “on the basis they are improper process for a habeas corpus proceeding.” Assistant Attorney General Rebecca Kane also noted Ellis “does not appear to be a licensed attorney in Arkansas.”
Lard, 48, who had waived his right to postconviction relief following the trial, said in a handwritten letter filed Tuesday he didn’t know anything about the lawsuit until informed by the attorney general’s office. He asked the circuit clerk to send anything filed in the lawsuit “directly to me by mail so I’ll know what’s going on and being done to stop this frivolous unauthorized petition that has been filed without by knowledge or consent by a man named Jeremy Edward Ellis who I do not know.”
The case has been assigned to Circuit Judge Tonya Alexander.
JONESBORO — An 18-year-old Lake City man was charged Friday with five counts of rape involving three children – a 4-year-old girl and two 3-year-old boys – with the alleged crimes occurring in Lake City and Jonesboro.
District Judge David Boling found probable cause to charge Joshua Allen Ashley with five counts of rape: two counts of rape; three counts of rape (same sex).
Boling set Ashley’s bond at $6 million.
According to a probable cause affidavit by Detective David Bailey with the Craighead County Sheriff’s Office, on March 14 the sheriff’s office was asked to assist the Lake City Police Department with a report taken by Lake City police officer Aaron Bupp about the alleged rapes.
“The parents/grandparents of the three minor children were advised to take the children to the hospital to have sexual assault kits performed by Children’s Hospital in Little Rock,” the affidavit stated.
The sheriff’s office received the kits and logged them into evidence, along with body camera footage from Lake City police and witness statements collected by Bupp.
The evidence was reviewed by an investigator at the sheriff’s office.
A report and copies of interviews with the alleged
Continued on Page 3 STATE NEWS (cont.)
victims by the Arkansas State Police Crimes Against Children Division were also sent to the sheriff’s
According to the affidavit, during a Mirandized interview with investigators on March 23, Ashley admitted to performing illegal acts on the victims.
As a result of his admissions, Ashley was arrested.
Two additional counts were added to the original counts by the Jonesboro Police Department for alleged incidents pertaining to the same victims in Jonesboro, the affidavit stated.
Boling added three no-contact orders between Ashley and the victims. He also ordered that, if released on bond, Ashley have no contact with children and that he must wear an ankle monitor.
LITTLE ROCK — Avian or bird flu is not just a threat for large poultry operations, folks with backyard coops are also being warned to watch for signs and symptoms in their flocks and incorporate good biosecurity practices.
In the past, the Arkansas Department of Agriculture has recommended limiting visitors, keep clothing (hats, boots, gloves) worn in the coop/flock area separate from other farm clothing (clothes used on the farm should stay on the farm), change clothing after tending to the flock and thoroughly wash hands and arms, do not visit other poultry farms or have contact with other bird species, clean crates, coops, feeders and waterers, and dispose of dead birds properly (burial or incineration).
Local poultry farmers are watching with concern as cases of avian flu proliferate around the U.S. “I’m in my 32nd year of growing chickens, so I’ve done it for a long time. This is our third major Avian Influenza scare since I’ve been in business,” said Dan Wright with Arkansas Farm Bureau. Wright made the remark Tuesday at a meeting with Congressman Rick Crawford of Jonesboro and other local poultry growers. “The avian flu crisis of 2014-15 devastated the poultry industry throughout the supply chain,” Crawford said. “As folks in this part of the state know all too well, avian flu is a potent, lethal threat that can wipe out an entire flock.”
Containment of the virus is essential but difficult, as it is spread easily, including by the droppings of migratory birds such as geese, and the shoes of a visitor to a chicken house.
“In 2015, my neighbor’s flock contracted avian flu from pond water that got contaminated with river water during a major flood.
Within two weeks they had an outbreak, and they were out of business for six months. So, this is something that we want to avoid,” Wright said.
Nearly 50 million turkeys and hens were lost in the previous outbreak. There is fear that the number could be larger this time around due to the recent rise in backyard chicken coops.
“Recreational chickens have really spiked in popularity in the last 4-5 years.
People have really embraced backyard poultry, so that’s going to be a factor this time around,” Crawford said.
Among the issues Crawford was investigating during his visit was how local growers would assess the government response previously, and what changes should be made if needed this year.
“We thankfully have a livestock indemnity program in place this time around.
However, public awareness efforts probably need to be increased due to the backyard poultry issue. I will be working to assist with that,” Crawford said.
The avian flu has already been reported in more than 15 states. To date, it has not been transmitted to the human population.
“Arkansas growers have faced this threat before and are taking preventative biosecurity measures to avoid contamination from outside sources. But if it hits the state, my colleagues and I are ready to work with the Department of Agriculture to provide relief to the poultry industry,” Crawford said.
Crawford is a member of the House Agriculture Committee, serving in the U.S House since 2011.