Wednesday, April 13, 2005

TOP STORY>> Predators in our midst

IN SHORT: After several high-profile cases, communities worry about their children, but prosecutors are taking a tough stance against sex offenders, many of whom are serving long sentences.

Leader staff writer

This area has had several high-profile sexual-abuse cases in recent years.

The best known was the case of Boy Scout leader Jack Walls III, who is serving several life sentences after he abused dozens of young men, drove one to suicide, and had another kill his parents and sister to cover up the scandal.

Heath Stocks, the young man who shot his parents and sister in 1997, and Walls are both serving life prison sentences, while Wade Knox, the abuse victim who later committed suicide, was recently honored with the opening of a child advocacy center in Lonoke which bears his name.

Last week, a Jacksonville man was sentenced to 30 years in prison when he pled guilty to raping a seven-year-old boy, raising the high area total of sex convictions by one more.

Circuit Judge Marion Humphrey sentenced Robert Leon Brooks, 43, on April 5. He will serve the full 30-year term because of a previous conviction.

Brooks was convicted of rape in 1985 and was sentenced to 20 years, but was released in 1997.

There are less dramatic cases, but Lonoke County prosecutors have had their hands full going after alleged pedophiles. At least two trials have been postponed because of concerns that the same jury hearing disturbing testimony in these cases will get nauseous and vote for convictions.

The Arkansas Department of Correction currently houses 48 sex offenders from Lonoke County, 50 from Pulaski County, and 37 from White County.

Two of those include Walls III and Larry Wayne Stephens, the trigger-case for a motion to recuse that was filed against Lonoke County Circuit Judge Lance Hanshaw.

Walls was convicted of six counts of rape in 1997 and is serving three life sentences and three 40-year terms.
He was charged with only six counts of rape because of the statute of limitations, but some believe he may have abused up to 150 young men before he was stopped.

The first incident allegedly happened when Walls, then 22, showed a Playboy magazine to a 12-year-old boy in 1968 and asked for sex. According to a web site, the boy turned him down and told people about the incident, leading to his being fired from his job and being sent to Vietnam.

He was stopped for the last time when a victim forced him to confess at gunpoint in 1997. The investigation that followed uncovered 60 recent victims.

Stephens was convicted of rape, kidnapping, terroristic threatening in the first degree, and domestic battery in the third degree.
A motion to recuse was filed after Hanshaw went against the jury’s recommendation of 86 years in consecutive sentences to only 40 years in concurrent sentences. Hanshaw said he didn’t think the jury understood the difference between consecutive and concurrent after the recommendation was made.

Stevens, a 10-time felon, beat his girlfriend in the head with a Mason jar and choked her until she lost consciousness. When she awoke, he continued beating her with the Mason jar, yelling at her to admit she had cheated on him.

Stephens finally ripped all her clothes off and raped her. He threatened to kill her and said he could make it look like an accidental fire, the affidavit said. The woman escaped by jumping through a window. She then ran to a neighbor’s house and called the police.
He had previous convictions dating from 1989 to 2001, including sexual abuse in the first degree, possession of a controlled substance, possession of drug paraphernalia, fleeing, two counts of commercial burglary, impairing a vital public facility, tampering with physical evidence, and two counts of theft of property.

Two upcoming cases include a former ASU-Beebe employee accused of child Internet pornography and a former Ward man accused of abusing his young grandchildren. Jerry Don McCabe, 46, of Austin, was arrested Jan. 7 after a tip was given by Missouri authorities.

He had been chatting with a Diamond, Mo., officer he thought was a 13-year-old girl when he left a chat service. He returned to the chat program and broadcast himself nude to “cindy64840” for about 20 minutes. He returned to her on three of the next four days before the Lonoke Sheriff’s Department confiscated his computer to find child Internet porn.

His pretrial date was set for May 24 with jury trial dates set for May 25-26. Albert Hays, 58, formerly of Ward, now in Bonita Springs, Fla., was arrested Feb. 1, 2004 for rape.

The state alleged that between Jan. 1995 and Dec. 31, 1997, Hays engaged in sexual contact with two grandsons who were less than 14 years of age.

His pretrial date was set for May 24 with jury trial dates set for June 1 and 2.