Two Conway men were sentenced to 30 years in prison Wednesday for the 2016 shooting death of 53-year-old Gary Phillips.
Johnny Reed Jr., 32, Vennessa Lyons, 25, and Keenan Beacham, 22, were each arrested in December 2016 in connection to Phillips's death. On Wednesday, Reed and Beacham each entered a negotiated plea deal with prosecutors for a 30-year prison sentence for their roles in the Nov. 23, 2016, murder.
Chief Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Carol Crews said these sentences hold Beacham and Reed accountable for Phillips's murder.
"The Conway Police Department did a fantastic job solving a touch case," she said.
As the case unfolded, she said authorities learned they were dealing with a felony murder case and that "the police didn't think the shooter had the intention to kill the victim."
"The sentences hold the defendants accountable for their actions and take into account the level of culpability each defendant had in the homicide," Crews said Thursday. "This case illustrates why felony murder is on the books and why we must aggressively prosecute violent crime and continue to crack down on people who sell drugs in our community."
Beacham pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and was sentenced to 25 years in prison. Beacham also pleaded guilty to a furnishing prohibited articles charge and a probation violation for a previous felony breaking or entering conviction, which added an additional five-year sentence set to run consecutively with the 25-year sentence, for a total of 30 years.
Reed pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to 30 years in the Arkansas Department of Corrections.
Crews said that while Reed's actions reflected "a lesser degree of culpability in Phillips's death" he was still held accountable for arranging the drug deal that resulted in Phillips's death.
Phillips was dropped off at the Conway Regional Medical Center Emergency Room around 2:40 p.m. the day before Thanksgiving 2016, after he was shot during a robbery incident. He later died from his injuries at Conway Regional.
Lyons drove Beacham to meet up with Phillips and Reed, "who was known by the street name 'Little Johnny'" on the night in question, according to a probable cause affidavit.
Beacham reportedly arranged to meet Phillips at The Draft Ultimate Sports Grill on Dave Ward Drive to sell Phillips and his friend Shelby Stivers some K2, which is an illegal synthetic drug used as an alternative to marijuana.
Lyons told officers she met Beacham at the Bear's Den Pizza a week prior to Phillips's murder.
"She said on the day of the incident, [Beacham] called her and she said he needed a ride because he was going to 'hit a lick,'" one officer wrote in his report. "Based on my experience as an officer, I know this phrase to refer either to breaking into cars/homes/businesses or to [rob someone]."
Authorities said Beacham met Reed, Phillips and Stivers in the parking lot at The Draft and got into the back seat on the driver's side. Beacham, who had a gun, asked Phillips for $500 for the drugs and then began yelling, 'Give me all you got!"
According to the affidavit, Reed left with Beacham and Stivers returned to Phillips's blue 2004 Kia Sorento and then drove Phillips to the emergency room.
Stivers dropped Phillips off at Conway Regional and then left to take the vehicle back to Phillips's home on Allen Drive. He told authorities he left the hospital because he was worried he had outstanding warrants.
A Conway Police Department investigation led officers to Reed as a person of interest in Phillips's murder.
Lyons and Beacham were arrested soon after Reed turned himself in to authorities for questioning.
Lyons, who is set for trial in October, was also charged with two counts of first-degree endangering the welfare of a minor after authorities became aware that her two minor children were in the vehicle with her and Beacham when she drove him to The Draft.
As part of his plea deal, Beacham agreed to truthfully testify against Lyons when she stands trial.