A 45-year-old Conway man was sentenced to 12 years in prison after pleading guilty Wednesday to internet stalking of a child after arranging to meet up with who he thought was an underage girl.
An undercover Faulkner County Sheriff's Office investigator responded to an online ad Tracey Wayne Clark posted on Aug. 6. The two began chatting and from there, Clark arranged to meet the undercover investigator's fake profile and who he thought was a 13-year-old girl the following day, according to a probable cause affidavit.
Clark, who was a manager at the Big Lots on Oak Street, pleaded guilty in a negotiated plea deal Wednesday to one count of internet stalking of a minor, a Class Y felony. Clark's 12-year prison sentence is followed by an additional 10-year suspended sentence.
Faulkner County Prosecuting Attorney Luke Ferguson said the community is safer now that Clark has agreed to prison time.
"I am pleased with the outcome in this case," he said. "I believe that this plea makes our community safer during the length of the defendant's term of imprisonment and the additional suspended sentence. Protecting children is a top priority for this office, and this case furthers that aim."
When questioned by authorities following his August arrest, Clark admitted to having a sexual interest in underage girls but said he would not have acted on that urge.
"Clark admitted to traveling from his residence in Conway, AR to the Continental Inn for the purpose of having intercourse with the 13 year old female," the affidavit reads. "Clark stated that he would not have engaged in sexual intercourse with the female because his stomach was upset and he was too nervous."
Deputies met hours before the sting to discuss alternate routes to take while conducting surveillance of Clark in the moments leading up to his arrest. The lead investigator noted the importance of keeping surveillance of the suspect's home, who's property line adjoins Ida Burns Elementary School.
While chatting with the lead investigator's undercover profile, Clark allegedly arranged to meet with who he thought was a man and a 13-year-old girl at the Continental Inn on Harkrider Street. He told the investigator he would bring poppers (a sexual enhancement), sex toys and the silk band his wife uses to tie her robe. Clark also said he would bring $25 in cash to split hotel room costs with the undercover investigator's profile.
Investigators blocked Clark's vehicle when he arrived at the hotel and he was immediately arrested.
FCSO confiscated a cell phone, tablet, laptop, sex toys, $25 in cash as well as the silk band that Clark noted he would bring under the impression the 13 year old was interested in "rape role play."
Ferguson said he was thankful for the work the prosecutor's office and local law enforcement put in toward stopping Clark.
"I commend the Faulkner County Sheriff's Office and Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Colin Wall for their handling of this case," he said. "A dangerous person is being held accountable and will hopefully be deterred from future behavior that threatens young victims."