Attorneys representing the older of two teens accused of kidnapping and killing a Wooster woman last year are asking not only for the case to be moved to a different court, but statements regarding the suspect’s prior criminal history be suppressed from evidence.
Tacori D. Mackrell, 19, was 18 years old when he and his cousin, Robert L. Smith III, who was 16 years old at the time, allegedly abducted 72-year-old Elvia Fragstein while she was shopping in the Conway Commons. Both Pine Bluff teens have been charged as adults with capital murder, kidnapping, robbery and theft of property following Fragstein’s brutal July 2018 strangulation death.
Two days before a suppression was held in Faulkner County Circuit Court earlier this month, Bobby R. Digby II, one of the two attorneys representing Mackrell, filed a motion requesting the 19-year-old’s case be moved to a separate court.
Digby and defense attorney Bill James said they do not believe Mackrell would have a fair trial due to the publicity his case has received.
“This case has been highly publicized to the extent that the minds of the inhabitants of Faulkner County and the 20th Judicial District are so prejudiced against [Mackrell] that a fair and impartial trial cannot be had in this county,” the motion for a change of venue reads in part.
In its motion, the defense counsel cites the case has been highly publicized by the “numerous articles regarding the case” written by the Log Cabin Democrat.
“These articles encompass the Court hearings, numbers motions filed in the case, and what can only be construed as sentencing evidence regarding Elvia and Helmut Fragstein,” the motion reads in part.
Along with the many articles printed by the LCD, the defense is concerned about the comments online users have posted when stories are shared on the newspaper’s social media accounts.
“A vast majority of these comments indicate that [Mackrell] could not receive a fair trial,” the motion states. “Most of the comments stand for the proposition that [Mackrell] ‘is evil,’ ‘shouldn’t get any rights,’ should be ‘beaten to death,’ ‘should get the death penalty,’ etc.”
Some comments are “overwhelmingly negative,” Digby said.
Mackrell’s attorneys feel comments that state he “should get the death penalty,” should get the “max punishment” and call him a “punk” as well as a “worthless piece of crap” have crossed the line.
The motion was filed July 16. A suppression hearing in Mackrell’s case regarding statements he made during two separate interviews with law enforcement while detained in Jefferson County was held July 18.
Since the hearing that has not yet been ruled on by Circuit Judge Troy B. Braswell Jr., the Pine Bluff teen’s attorneys have asked that all evidence collected from Mackrell’s cell phone be suppressed along with statements he made regarding “other potential charges in Faulkner County, previous juvenile adjudications and sentences, controlled substances, fighting and gang references.”
A death trial in Mackrell’s case is currently set for Sept. 30 - Oct. 25.
Prosecutors and the defense counsel are expected to hold another three-day hearing prior to the death trial. However, as of press time Tuesday, that hearing had not yet been set.
Mackrell’s cousin recently asked to move his case from adult court to the juvenile division. However, the request was ultimately denied. Because he was 16 years old when he and his cousin allegedly abducted and killed Fragstein, he cannot face the death penalty, per Arkansas law.
Staff writer Marisa Hicks can be reached at email@example.com.