An attorney representing Robert L. Smith III is asking a circuit judge to delay his client’s trial after the teen’s older cousin, Tacori D. Mackrell, was found guilty as charged in Elvia Fragstein’s 2018 murder.
Smith, now 18, was 16 years old when he allegedly aided Mackrell in Fragstein’s strangulation death. Fragstein was shopping outside at TJ Maxx & HomeGoods on July 7, 2018, when the two allegedly abducted her. Mackrell admitted to killing the 72-year-old woman during his capital murder trial and was sentenced Wednesday to life in prison without the possibility of parole. He was also found guilty by a Faulkner County jury of kidnapping, aggravated robbery and theft of property and respectively sentenced to 30-, 40- and five-year sentences that Circuit Judge Troy Braswell ordered to run consecutively.
Three days after Mackrell was found guilty as charged, defense attorney Garfield W. Bloodman filed a motion to continue on Smith’s behalf.
With the younger Pine Bluff resident’s trial started “only a couple of weeks” after Mackrell was sentenced to life in prison, Smith’s attorney said he is concerned with hou “publicized in the news” Mackrell’s trial was.
“[In] light of all the publicity that Tacori [Mackrell’s] trial received, Robert Smith will [not] be able to obtain a fair and impartial trial if his case proceeds two weeks [after] Tacori [Mackrell’s] trial,” Bloodman wrote in his motion. “[The defense] counsel brings this motion in good faith and not for purpose of delay or any other improper purpose.”
As of press time Friday, a decision on Bloodman’s case had not been made.
The capital murder case against Smith is scheduled for Nov. 2-6. Because he was 16 years old at the time of the alleged offense, he cannot face the death penalty. Prosecutors sought the death penalty in Mackrell’s case. However, a jury of eight women and four men ultimately sentenced him to life in prison.
During Mackrell’s trial, 20th Judicial District Prosecutor Carol Crews and senior deputy prosecutor had entered Smith’s shoes as evidence in the case. According to testimony by Arkansas State Crime Lab Forensic DNA Analyst Jennifer Batey, the blood spatter found on Smith’s shoes matched Fragstein’s DNA profile “within all scientific certainty.”
Smith and Mackrell traveled to Conway from Pine Bluff on July 7 2018, so that Smith’s mother, LaTasha Smith, could play bingo. Mackrell had testified during his trial that the cousins decided to visit the various stores at the Conway Commons shopping center while Smith’s mother played bingo.
Mackrell’s defense team – William “Bill” James Jr. and Jeff Rosenzweig – pleaded from the beginning of Mackrell’s trial for a life sentence. The defense team had said it didn’t want to see anyone else die in this case and pointed out Mackrell’s traumatic childhood.
Mackrell was born with crack-cocaine in his system because his mother abused drugs. She continued to do so after he was born, so his father decided to step up and raise him. Henry “Jack” Mitchell was 62 years old when Tacori was born.
Henry had previously been charged with first-degree murder but was convicted of manslaughter in 1990, Rosensweig said. The defense team also pointed out that at one point in 2013, Tacori and his father were both behind bars in the Jefferson County Detention Center. It was the first time Tacori was in legal trouble. However, from there, he was in an out of trouble and eventually served more than one year in the Division of Youth Services.
Tacori told jurors his father was mentally and physically abusive, often calling him a “crack baby” and forcing him to learn how to drive at a young age. The now-20-year-old said his father would take him to bars and pool halls when he was younger. Tacori was 8 years old the first time Henry made him drive home because the father was intoxicated, Tacori testified.
Following his arrest in 2013, Tacori stayed with one of his sisters, Tina McCoy Mitchell, when he wasn’t detained at a DYS facility. After he was released from the juvenile program, Tacori went back to McCoy Mitchell’s home, where he stayed from September 2017 to his 18th birthday in December 2017. When he turned 18, Tacori left to stay with a girlfriend.
Tacori briefly moved to Texas before coming back to Arkansas and staying with Smith and his family.
A state medical examiner said some of the injuries Fragstein sustained were consistent with “stomping” injuries. The 72-year-old Wooster woman suffered eight broken ribs, a crushed throat and had a cracked cervical vertebrae. Fragstein’s body was found in a swampy area by a farm off Gibb Anderson Road in rural Jefferson County.
Mackrell testified that Smith was driving the Wooster woman’s vehicle and told her how to get to the farmland where his father once worked so that they could dump her body. Jury selection in Smith’s case is currently scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. Nov. 2.