After the 19-year-old teen accused in Elvia Fragstein's 2018 death was found fit for trial earlier this week, prosecutors released the aggravating factors that qualify his case as a death case.
Tacori D. Mackrell is charged alongside his cousin with capital murder, kidnapping, aggravated robbery and theft of property following the brutal strangulation of the 71-year-old Wooster woman.
In Arkansas, a defendant found guilty of capital murder can receive one of two punishments: life in prison without the possibility of parole or death. However, prosecutors cannot seek the death penalty in all capital cases.
“The death penalty is never an automatic option,” deputy prosecutor John Hout said during Scotty Gardner's death trial. Gardner's trial was the first death case in Faulkner County in more than 30 years.
Not only are prosecutors required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a capital murder defendant killed the victim premeditated and deliberately, but they must also prove there was at least one aggravating circumstance or factor that contributed to the alleged crime for the case to qualify as a death penalty case.
Twentieth Judicial District Prosecutor Carol Crews on Wednesday filed the aggravating circumstances that will be used against Mackrell.
At 8:51 a.m., she submitted a notice of aggravating circumstances that allege the then-18-year-old Pine Bluff teen kidnapped and killed the Faulkner County woman "for pecuniary gain."
Crews also said prosecutors believe "that the capital murder was committed in an especially cruel or depraved manner."
Mackrell's younger cousin, 17-year-old Robert Smith III, is also charged with capital murder for his alleged involvement in Fragstein's slaying. Smith was 16 years old when he and Mackrell allegedly kidnapped Fragstein from the Conway Commons Shopping Center parking lot in broad daylight on July 7.
Because of his age, Smith cannot face the death sentence, per Arkansas law.
Online records hint gang activity played a role in her death. However, authorities have since declined to comment on the extent the role played.
The Wooster woman was reported missing by her husband, Helmut, who was immediately concerned about his wife’s well being when she did not come home at 5 p.m. July 7 as she said she would.
The missing persons investigation soon turned into a homicide investigation after a body found in a wooded area along Gibb Anderson Road in Jefferson County was identified four days later as the missing Wooster woman. Authorities later found the victim’s vehicle had been set on fire and abandoned in Pine Bluff.
Helmut has attended every hearing set in both teens' cases.
The 80-year-old Wooster resident was present as attorney Bill James, who represent Mackrell, argued to have his client found unfit for trial. During the hearing before Circuit Judge Troy B. Braswell on Tuesday, the defense attorney ultimately withdrew his request after Melissa Dannacher, a clinical psychologist and forensic evaluator at the Arkansas State Hospital, said she believed the 19-year-old was purposefully being difficult with attorneys who represented him because they were not telling him what he wanted to hear.
Following the hearing, attorneys on both sides agreed to set a trial date in Mackrell's case. The 19-year-old is now scheduled to appear in Faulkner County Circuit Curt for a motion hearing on July 19. A nearly three-month-long jury trial is set to begin Sept. 30.
A juvenile transfer has been requested by attorneys representing Smith. A fit to proceed hearing is currently scheduled in the younger teen's case for July 3 in Faulkner County Circuit Court.