A woman arrested in the kidnapping and killing of a Pulaski County real estate agent pleaded guilty Tuesday and was sentenced to 30 years in prison.
Crystal Lowery, the estranged wife of co-defendant Arron Lewis, pleaded guilty to charges of first-degree murder and kidnapping before Pulaski County Circuit Judge Herb Wright.
Lewis and Lowery were each charged with capital murder in the killing of Realtor Beverly Carter, whose body was found in a shallow grave in northern Pulaski County days after she disappeared after going to show a home in Scott.
The charge was reduced to first-degree murder just before Lowery entered the plea. She will be required to truthfully testify at Lewis' trial, which is set for January.
Lowery didn't answer several questions from reporters as she was led from the hearing, except when asked whether she was sorry.
"Yes, I'm sorry for her death," she said.
A large group of Carter's family, friends and coworkers attended the hearing, but they left without commenting. Chief deputy prosecutor John Johnson called it a good plea deal for the state, adding it will allow Carter's family and friends to begin seeking closure.
"It's always good when you have someone who is a participant in the crime who can help provide additional information and perspective for the jury, something other than just the investigative part of the case," he said, noting that the family had approved the deal: "This is half the case for them that is now down the road. That's a large part of a negotiated plea in a lot of instances is helping the family begin the process of closure and getting past what a horrible thing has happened to the family."
Johnson in court said that investigators developed Lowery and Lewis as suspects after finding records showing communication between Carter's phone and Lowery's. Lewis was followed and he had in his possession Carter's phone, Johnson said.
He said that "further investigation" of the cellphone records showed "it was apparent that Crystal Lowery participated in the plan and kidnapping of Ms. Beverly Carter, which resulted in her death."
Lowery was then asked whether Johnson's description of the case was true. She acknowledged it was.
Johnson called the case against Lewis "strong." He said the state hadn't made any offer for a plea deal for him and that Lewis hasn't asked for one.
Lewis had originally sought to represent himself at trial, but last month asked for an attorney because he said being in jail made it difficult for him to prepare his case. Little Rock defense attorney Bill James was appointed to represent him.
Check back for updates and see Wednesday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.