Tuesday, January 24, 2012

TOP STORY >> Stalker leaves jail, kills woman

Leader staff writer

A man charged in Lonoke County in December with rape, terroristic threatening and false imprisonment has killed himself and the woman who accused him of those crimes.

Ronnie Odell Stewart Jr. 38, of Maumelle was held for a week in the Lonoke County Jail and released on a $50,000 bond after charges were brought against him on behalf of Jenny Marie Cavender, 39, who lived near Austin.

He was in court in Lonoke County on Jan. 9, and he was set to return to court on Feb. 13 for plea and arraignment.

The murder-suicide happened at about 8:15 a.m. Monday in the parking lot of the Saline Memorial Hospice in Bryant where Cavender worked.

Sgt. Todd Crowson, spokesman for Bryant Police Department, said his agency is trying to get security tapes from Lowe’s next-door to Cavender’s workplace to determine if he waited there for her to show up.

What is known is that Stewart jumped out of his car while it was still running and it rolled into a parked ambulance so hard that the car’s airbag deployed.

Crowson said Stewart jumped out on the passenger side of Cavender’s car firing a semiautomatic 40-caliber pistol and continued to fire as he made his way around to the driver’s side.

“He just got out shooting, and this poor lady didn’t stand a chance,” Crowson said.

Cavender had lived in Bryant for 11 days when she was killed and had not alerted the Bryant police to the order of protection against Stewart.

“We had no idea this was going on in her life,” Crowson said.

Reports filed by the sheriff’s departments in Pulaski and Lonoke counties indicate that Stewart’s violent behavior escalated from mid-September until he killed Cavender.

Stewart was arrested Dec. 9 for rape and the other associated charges.

Cavender lived near Austin at that time. On the same day Stewart was arrested, the sheriff’s department gave Cavender an order of protection from him.

On Dec. 14, Cavender contacted the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Department about an incident that happened Sept. 22, near Maumelle in the mobile home park where Stewart lived.

Cavender said in that report that she and Steward argued over money she spent on children from a previous relationship. Specifically, he was angry about money she sent her daughter who didn’t live with her.

Cavender said he grabbed her cell phone, pushed her and told her to leave. But she stayed and tried to sleep on the couch but she was awakened several times by his yelling.

Eventually he pulled her off the couch and kicked her in the back. Then he held a gun on her and said, “I’m not going to shoot you.”

She left a short time later without further incident.

Asked why she waited almost two months to report the incident, Cavender said she loved Stewart and didn’t want to get him into trouble.

Stewart was freed on bond on Dec. 15, the day after Cavender reported the Sept. 22 incident to Pulaski County.

After Stewart was released from jail, Dean White, chief deputy for Lonoke County Sheriff Jim Roberson, said his department received information about a disturbance at the state revenue office in Maumelle when Cavender tried to get a license for her car. Apparently, Stewart had the title to it and did not want to relinquish it, White said.

Although the order of protection didn’t stop Stewart from killing Cavender on Monday, the Lonoke County prosecutor said Tuesday that domestic violence is a huge problem and that protection orders help keep abusers at bay because they are backed up by the threat of arrest.

And Sgt. Crowson in Bryant has this advice: “If you’ve got an order of protection against someone, go by the local police department and give them all the information they should have.”