Prosecutor seeks death penalty in 2015 slaying of elderly Bay woman
Scott Ellington, District Prosecuting Attorney for the Second Judicial District of Arkansas, announced that he will seek the death penalty against a Bay man accused of abducting and killing an elderly Bay woman last July.
Ellington filed amended capital murder charges last Thursday in Craighead County Circuit Court against Richard Jordon Tarver, 30, of Bay. The amended felony information sets forth the aggravating circumstances under Arkansas Code § 5-64-604 that would justify a jury imposing the death penalty upon Tarver if he is convicted of capital murder in the July 3, 2015, kidnapping and killing Lavinda Counce, 90, of Bay.
"Today on behalf of Ms. Lavinda Counce, her family, and the good people of Bay, I have filed notice of my intent to seek the death penalty against Mr. Tarver," Ellington said. "After careful review of the investigative file, I believe that the facts of this especially horrific case warrant its use and justice requires it."
Ellington stated the aggravating circumstances in his Notice of Intent to Seek the Death Penalty include:
1. The Capital Murder was committed for pecuniary gain;
2. The Capital Murder was committed in an especially cruel or depraved manner; specifically, the defendant, as part of a course of conduct intended to inflict mental anguish upon the victim prior to the victim's death, did inflict mental anguish upon the victim by creating uncertainty as to her ultimate fate;
3. The Capital Murder was committed in an especially cruel or depraved manner; specifically, the defendant, as part of a course of conduct intended to inflict serious physical abuse upon the victim prior to the victim's death, did inflict serious physical abuse upon the victim;
4. The Capital Murder was committed in an especially cruel or depraved manner by relishing the act of murder; by showing an indifference to the suffering of the victim; and by evidencing a sense of pleasure in committing the murder;
5. The Capital Murder was committed against a person whom the defendant knew or reasonably should have known was especially vulnerable to the attack because of her age and physical disability, all of which interfered with the victim's ability to flee or to defend herself.
In addition to the capital murder charge, Ellington has accused Tarver of aggravated robbery, kidnapping, aggravated residential burglary, abuse of a corpse, theft of property, and possession of a defaced firearm in the Counce case. The defendant has entered a plea of not guilty to the State's charges.
Ellington said Tarver is expected to appear before Judge Tommy Fowler on March 3, 2016, for a pretrial hearing and to be tried before a jury on March 14, 2016.
History of the case
Counce disappeared from her Lunsford Avenue home on July 3, 2015. Her car was located the next day at NEA Baptist Hospital in Jonesboro. After an exhausting nine-day search, a volunteer searcher discovered Counce's body on July 12 in a cornfield near Craighead County Road 607, west of Bay.
In the days following the discovery of Counce's body, investigators developed information that Tarver may have been involved in her disappearance and sought a search warrant for his Bay residence from District Judge Curt Huckaby. Officers arrested Tarver on July 17 following the execution of a search warrant by the Craighead County Sheriff's Department and the Bay Police Department.
On Aug. 13, Ellington announced that he filed a seven-count felony information charging Tarver with capital murder, aggravated robbery, kidnapping, aggravated residential burglary, abuse of a corpse, theft of property, and possession of a defaced firearm.
The prosecutor explained that the abuse of a corpse charge stems from Tarver allegedly placing Counce's body in a cornfield on County Road 607, west of Bay, where it laid for nine days before being discovered by a search volunteer on July 12 shortly before noon.
Tarver has been held in the Craighead County Detention Center since his arrest on July 17, 2015.