Friday, July 26, 2013

TOP STORY >> Plea deal in Ward killing

Leader staff writer

The Ward man who admitted to shooting an employee in the head during a business meeting at his home last year pleaded guilty to manslaughter in Lonoke County Circuit Court Wednesday and was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Sheriff John Staley said Christopher Reynolds was taken to the county jail immediately after he was sentenced and will be held there until he is picked up by the state Department of Correction.

Convicted prisoners can be held at the county jail for a few weeks up to months before the state takes custody, but Staley said he intends to unload Reynolds sooner if possible.

“We’re going to try to fast track because it’s dangerous,” the sheriff said.

It’s possible other prisoners might be familiar with the crime and Reynolds could be in danger, and it would be safer for everyone to have inmates convicted of violent crimes locked up at a state facility, he said.

Reynolds, 35, killed Ernest Hoskins, 21, of North Little Rock, on Nov. 9.

He admitted in his statement to police that day that he pointed a .44 magnum Desert Eagle at Hoskin’s head and pulled the trigger. When it didn’t fire, he cocked it and a round went into the chamber. He was trying to de-cock the gun, he said, when it went off and killed Hoskins.

Reynolds then called 911 and reported the shooting. Hoskins was pronounced dead at the scene.

Reynolds owned a business that sold devices that were supposed to improve gas mileage. Hoskins was one of four salespeople at Reynolds’ home at 26 Deer Run in Ward that day. Reynolds told state police investigators who were called to help with the case that, immediately before he shot Hoskins, he was talking to him about his low sales and asking him why his numbers were lower than the other three.

Reynolds was arrested for first degree murder two weeks after the shooting. Lonoke County Prosecutor Chuck Graham turned the case over to a special prosecutor after Hoskins’ family claimed it was being mishandled because Reynolds is white and Hoskins was black.

Graham told The Leader after Reynolds was arrested that he didn’t know Hoskins was black until he got a call from the NAACP, but he stepped down because it was clear the family wasn’t comfortable with him handling the case and he didn’t want to compound their loss.

The case was turned over to Jack McQuary, the special prosecutor from the state Office of Prosecutor Coordinator who charged Reynolds with manslaughter, saying that was the charge that fit under Arkansas law.

Manslaughter is a Class C felony that carries a sentence of three to 10 years in prison, so Reynolds received the maximum sentence.

In addition to the prison term, Reynolds was ordered to have no contact with the victim’s mother or wife.