The statements made to authorities in July 2018 by murder suspect Tacori D. Mackrell regarding Wooster woman Elvia Fragstein’s death were given willfully, Circuit Judge Troy Braswell Jr. determined.
Defense attorneys William “Bill” James Jr. and Jeffrey Rosenzweig argued the now-20-year-old’s statements should be suppressed because he spoke to police after he was promised he could stay in Jefferson County for one more night before being transferred to the Faulkner County Detention Center. The statements in question were given July, 15, 2018, and July 16, 2018.
Mackrell’s defense counsel claimed he did not talk to law enforcement voluntarily and that the statement he gave was made because of a “false promise.”
However, the circuit judge presiding over the case formally denied the defense’s suppression request Thursday.
“The Court finds that there was no false promise made [by] law enforcement in that law enforcement did exactly what they told [Mackrell] they would do,” Braswell wrote in his order that ultimately denied the defense’s request. Despite the defense’s claims, this particular case “is distinguishable from other cases where a promise was made but law enforcement failed to follow through with that promise.”
The two defense attorneys said they believed their client was coerced into giving a statement in receiving a promise to stay in Jefferson County another night because “[t]he officers were aware that staying in Jefferson County was extremely important to him.”
Twentieth Judicial District Prosecutor Carol Crews disagreed with Mackrell’s lawyers.
Despite the defense counsel’s claims that the statement Mackrell gave was not voluntary and instead “induced by hope of reward,” Crews said it was clear he spoke voluntarily.
“[T]he statement [Mackrell gave] was neither misleading nor false. Mackrell was told arrangements had been made to allow him to stay before he even gave any details about the incident,” Crews’ stated in a responding motion.
According to Crews’ response, Mackrell had invoked his right to counsel the day before during an interview with Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office Lt. John Bean and later asked to talk with CPD and FCSO investigators.
“Once he initiated contact, he was informed his rights would need to be read to him again, and he replied, ‘Come on, read ‘em to me. I know ‘em. You ain’t even got to read ‘em,’” according to court documents.
As FCSO Lt. Chad Wooley began reading Mackrell his rights and asked if he wanted to talk “even though yesterday you said you wanted a lawyer,” Mackrell responded in saying, “I’m saying you read me my rights, cause you know I want to talk. You ain’t got to ask me if I want to talk.”
Crews said Mackrell was “adamant that he understood his rights” and that his actions “demonstrate that he was not vulnerable.”
After reviewing arguments on both sides of the matter and listening to testimony regarding the statements Mackrell allegedly made, Braswell determined Mackrell spoke willingly and voluntarily.
Mackrell is charged alongside his younger cousin with capital murder, kidnapping, aggravated robbery and theft of property following the brutal strangulation death of a 72-year-old Elvia Fragstein. His cousin, Robert Smith III, was 16 years old at the time they allegedly killed the Wooster woman.
Mackrell faces the death penalty for his alleged actions and is scheduled to appear next in court on Feb. 6 for a motion hearing. The Pine Bluff suspect’s trial is scheduled to begin on April 20. The trial is expected to run one month long.