Jones found guilty of second degree murder

Monday, December 18, 2017

After a lengthy four-day trial and 23 witnesses called by both the prosecution and the defense, 27-year-old Alan Curtis Jones of Arbyrd, Mo., was found guilty of the murder of 55-year old Mike Wallace of Monette. The jury came to a verdict late Thursday of second-degree with firearm enhancement and has sentenced Jones to combined total of 24 years.

Second-degree murder is considered to be a killing that was committed with the intention to only injure the victim. Immediately after the jury’s decision was announced, Circuit Judge Cindy Thyer, who presided over the case, set an appeal bond of $50,000 after Jones and his defense team stated they will be seeking an appeal.

On October 27, 2016. Jones and Wallace met on a dirt road between Wallace’s farm and a farm owned by Lonnie D. Gipson, Jones’s employer. The two men apparently met to settle a dispute over the use of the herbicide Dicamba. Jones’s cousin Anthony Vowells came with Jones to, according to Jones, keep Wallace from trying to fight him. At the meeting Jones fatally shot Wallace seven times with a pistol that he had brought with him. Vowells instructed him to call 9-1-1 and officers from the Mississippi County Sheriff’s Office arrived on scene approximately 11 minutes later.

The trial began Monday, Dec. 11, with jury selection and continued on into the week until late Thursday evening. Deputy prosecutors Curtis Walker, Jr. and Gina Knight presented the case for the state while the defense team was made up of Wendell Hoskins of Caruthersville, Mo., and Blytheville attorneys Zach Morrison and Jim Harris.

The prosecution's first witnesses were some of the officers who initially arrived at the scene of the crime including Captain Rob Rounsavall, Lieutenant Chuck Brown and Lieutenant Preston Williams. Brown testified he received a call about a shooting and when he arrived two men had their hands on the hood of a pickup truck (Jones’s truck). Jones then told Brown that he had shot Wallace. By that time, Rounsavall, who was the first to arrive on the scene, had already retrieved Jones’s pistol from his truck. The scene was further processed and was heavily documented with photos.

The state also called Dr. Charles Kokes to the stand. Kokes works at the Arkansas State Crime Lab and performed the autopsy on Wallace’s body. Kokes had previously constructed a diagram of a human body that showed where each bullet entered and exited respectively. The state entered several photos into evidence.

Various witnesses were called by the state, many of whom worked for various types of law enforcement including a high tech crimes officer from Jonesboro who analyzed Wallace’s phone.

The state also called two proffer witnesses whose testimony was not heard by the jury. The first was Jones’ cousin Mathew Davidson, and he detailed an altercation between him and Jones last year almost a month before Wallace’s murder. Davidson and Jones were having an argument in Jones’s truck when Jones told him to get out. As Davidson was leaving Jones called Davidson “a [expletive] idiot.” Davidson walked back up to Jones’s truck and grabbed him by his shirt collar through the truck window. When Davidson pulled back his arm in an attempt to strike Jones, Jones pulled a gun and set it on top of his steering wheel. Davidson backed away and they later agreed not to “talk about it.”

The defense called to the stand a forensic pathologist from Pittsburgh, Pa., named Dr. Cyril Wecht. Wecht reviewed Kokes’s autopsy report and was asked by the defense to “assume certain facts” related to the narrative given by Jones. By doing so Wecht gave his opinion on how the shooting might have occurred and in what order each of the seven shots fired at Wallace might have struck him. During Walker’s cross examination of Wecht, Walker asked him how much he had been paid for his consultation. Wecht answered that in total he was being paid $15,000 plus travel expenses.

The last witness to be called by the defense was Jones himself who relayed his version of the events calling Wallace a “wildman” and an “animal.” He stated he thought Wallace was going to kill him and felt he had no choice and that what he had done was necessary for his own survival.

Jones’s narrative was that upon arrival, he began exiting his truck and said, “What’s this about, Mike?” According to Jones, Wallace then replied, “You’ve been talking [expletive]” and took off in a “dead run” towards Jones.

Vowells recounted during his testimony that Wallace was flailing his arms around.

Jones then said he began to back away from Wallace, but Wallace continued advancing. Jones recounted that Wallace eventually took hold of Jones’s arm and Jones feared Wallace had a weapon and would soon kill him, so he unloaded his gun into Wallace.

During cross-examination Knight questioned as to why Jones didn’t simply get back into his truck once Wallace began to charge. Jones said he didn’t have the time.

Knight also asked why Jones went in the first place if he knew that Wallace was irate with him. Jones answered he didn’t want Wallace to get him in public because he didn’t know what Wallace looked like. Jones said he wanted to set the record straight between him and Wallace since Wallace was apparently angry enough to threaten Jones.

Knight also asked why Jones didn’t call the police after the initial phone call between them. Jones said he didn’t know what Wallace looked like. Knight responded that he knew where he was from, what he did and he had a phone number to which Jones responded that this incident was simply not something he would typically call the police over.

Jones testified he didn’t expect Wallace to do any harm to him. Knight then questioned why he didn’t think they were going to fight since he had said Wallace had previously threatened him. Jones remained with his story that he went out there simply to talk.

“What you didn’t hear was Mike’s version...the defendant made sure we didn’t get to hear Mike’s version,” Knight said to the jury during closing statements.

Knight went on to state how she believed Jones had his gun in his right hand as soon as he got out of his truck and shot Wallace seven times. She said the defendant wasn’t going to let an old man get away with calling him names over the phone and he put an end to it. Knight said the defense claims Jones was justified in killing Wallace because Jones believed Wallace was going to kill him.

“Simply grabbing at someone is not enough...not only was using a gun in this situation absolutely unreasonable, the defendant didn’t shoot Mike Wallace once - he shot him seven times,” Knight said. “Even if you do believe the defendant's version of what happened that day, he is the only one who came with backup and a gun.”

Hoskins began his closing argument stating that a closing argument is not evidence. He said he believed the state had failed to show any evidence that Jones was unjustified in shooting Wallace.

Hoskins said "you heard the exact same story from Jones and Vowells about what happened."

“Mike Wallace didn’t want to go and talk to Curtis Jones. What he wanted was to lure Curtis somewhere he felt he could do what he needed without consequences,” Hoskins said.

“What did he do? He pulled his gun and he defended himself,” Hoskins said.

After the jury returned with the guilty verdict, the state had Maleisa Finch, Wallace’s cousin, testify regarding Wallace’s character and the affect that his death had on his family.

“Mike had a beautiful life, it was a great life until the day his family had fallen apart because he was shot and killed,” Finch said.

Finch said she had to tell her aunt that her son had been murdered and can still hear her say, “Not Mike, not my son.”

Finch said Wallace’s family will likely never recover from his passing and that he brought joy to everyone who knew him. Finch asked the jury to put themselves in the place of one of them, before they made a decision on sentencing.

The jury left at 7:20 p.m. to deliberate and returned exactly 30 minutes later. They sentenced Jones to a total of 24 years in prison. According to jail records Jones is already out on bail due to the appeal bond that was set late Thursday night.

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