One of the two men accused of causing the deaths of two cousins at a home near Vilonia has been sentenced and will spend the rest of his life behind bars for his involvement in the crime.
Ronald Dean Charles, 34, of Cabot pled guilty on Monday to two counts of capital murder and was sentenced to life in prison without the chance of being paroled for his role in the assault and murder of cousins Lonnie Brock, 62, and Bobby Brock, 45, which occurred in August 2008.
As part of his plea, Charles agreed to provide truthful testimony against Troy Allen Crook, 32, of Jacksonville, who is scheduled to stand trial in August 2012.
Cody Hiland, prosecuting attorney for the 20th Judicial District, said that having a suspect admit guilt and accept a plea of this nature is not common but he hopes the sentence sets a tone for criminals who would attempt to victimize members of the community.
"I hope this sentence reflects the principle that we value human life in this district and the price for aggression against members of our community will not be cheap," he said. "Punishment varies from case to case but if the evidence and facts are sufficient, our goal is to make the punishment as severe as possible in an effort to keep our community safe."
While testifying on Monday, Charles told the court that he and Crook had been high on crack cocaine and planned to rob the Brock cousins of a gun they believed to have been in their possession. Charles explained that selling the gun would allow Crook and himself to purchase more cocaine. However, when the events of the crime escalated, the suspects assaulted the cousins and eventually shot them.
On Monday, Capt. Matt Rice of the Faulkner County Sheriff’s Department, who worked as the lead investigator on the case, said that he was pleased that part of this case could be closed with Charles’ plea.
"This case was one of the most brutal that I have ever worked," Rice said. "With Charles’ testimony, one portion of this case can be closed out and I am thankful about that for the family’s sake."
In an interview at the time of the murders, Rice stated that the suspects were arrested within days of investigators being called to the scene when family members found the bodies of the Brock cousins. One body was found in the yard of the residence and the other body was found inside the home. Rice confirmed that both men had been severely beaten as well as being shot in the head.
When asked why the victim’s families had to wait so long for a resolution in the case, Hiland said that he could only comment on what has happened in the time since he took office.
"I can’t answer for anything but the last year," he said. "However, Troy Braswell, deputy prosecuting attorney has worked this case very hard to bring some resolution to the Brock family."
Hiland’s office announced earlier in 2011 that prosecutors would seek the death penalty for Crook. However, Charles was offered a plea agreement because evidence collected by investigators at the crime scene as well as Charles’ own confession indicate that while Charles was involved in the assault on the Brock cousins, he was not involved in the shooting death of either man.
While speaking of Charles, Hiland said, "we believe that the punishment fits his level of culpability in relation to the crime."
Charles also faces a third capital murder charge stemming from information he told Faulkner County Sheriff’s Department and Arkansas State Police investigators while awaiting trial. A resolution in that case based on Charles’ information is expected soon.
Information from Charles led police to find the remains of Sandra Givens, 32, of White County, in a Jacksonville industrial park. Based on information gathered from Charles, George Alan Smith, 33, of Jacksonville, was arrested and also charged with Givens’ murder.
(Candie Beck is a staff writer and can be reached at 505-1238 or at firstname.lastname@example.org)