A packed courtroom heard testimony Tuesday from police, forensic experts, a church member and a mother whose son is accused of killing her friend.
Chris Anthony Arnold, 52, is charged with capital murder in the death of 85-year-old Maurine Jones last fall. Both were members of Indianhead Lake Baptist Church in Sherwood, and Arnold was a frequent visitor to Jones' home.
Arnold sat through the three hours of testimony Tuesday in Pulaski County Circuit Court with his family members sitting behind him, his mouth tightly closed and his lips curled inward. Jones' family and friends sat on the opposite side of the room, some dabbing their eyes with tissues.
Arnold faces life in prison, if convicted, after prosecutors waived the death penalty.
Jurors heard testimony Tuesday from Jones' friends who found her -- including Arnold's mother, Pauline -- and police and forensic experts who surveyed the scene. The trial continues today with witnesses who will discuss whether the DNA taken at the scene matches Arnold's, which the prosecution contends.
In the defense's opening statement, attorney Lott Rolfe called the charges against Chris Arnold a "rush to judgment" and said he was the "easiest person to target" as a frequent visitor to Jones' home but had been wrongfully accused of her murder.
Pauline Arnold testified that on Nov. 30, she, Chris Arnold and Jones attended an evening church service. Afterward, Chris Arnold went to Jones' home and fished in Indianhead Lake, which is behind Jones' home on Shoshoni Drive.
Arnold had permission to do so and often went to Jones' house to fish, borrowing her aluminum flat-bottom boat, his mother testified.
Later that evening, Jones fell while outside on the boat dock, Arnold's mother recalled her son telling her. Pauline Arnold said that her son told her he helped Jones up and offered to call a doctor and Pauline Arnold, but that Jones declined both offers.
Jones fell a lot, Pauline Arnold said, but she always called her.
Chris Arnold also told his mother that he saw a man, a woman and a red pickup outside Jones' home as he left that night, Pauline Arnold testified.
Sherwood Police Department detective Drew Edwards testified later that he did not see anything resembling a red pickup in surveillance video from the area. Rolfe questioned the quality of the video, which Edwards said was poor for only some of the footage.
Lois Olsen testified that she went to the church in Sherwood early Dec. 1 to meet Jones and the pastor for breakfast, as the three did every Thursday morning, but that Jones didn't show when expected. That had happened before, Olsen said, but usually because Jones had to run to the grocery store. In those cases, she'd leave a note for Olsen.
On one occasion, Olsen recalled, Jones had fallen and Olsen had to enter through a window in Jones' home to assist her.
By 7:30 a.m. Dec. 1, Olsen testified, she had begun to worry. There was no note at the church and the coffee hadn't been made, and Olsen said she suspected Jones could have fallen again.
Olsen said she called Jones' home phone and cellphone but got no answer. So she called Pauline Arnold, whom she described as Jones' best friend, and asked if she knew where Jones was.
Eventually Arnold entered Jones' house through the back door, which had been left open, Pauline Arnold testified. It was unusual for Jones to leave any doors unlocked, Olsen said, even when she was home.
Pauline Arnold, Olsen and their friend Gary Brewer found Jones facedown in the hallway, naked from the waist down, strangled with a black cloth tied around her neck, Arnold and Olsen testified.
"[Pauline Arnold] seemed to think more was wrong than her just falling," Olsen said.
Jones had discoloration on her body and face and abrasions and contusions on her face, according to Pulaski County Coroner investigator Zach Warren and Dr. Adam Craig, an associate medical examiner with the state Crime Laboratory.
Her skin also had been marred with chemicals, Craig testified.
Forensic experts later found traces of p30, a bodily fluid most commonly contained in semen, in Jones' rectum.
Authorities collected bloody clothing from the home, a bleach bottle, a piece of blue plastic that resembles that from a latex glove and other items.
Authorities explained Tuesday what they took and how they tested it, but no one was called to connect DNA to the evidence in the case.
Prosecutor Mary Ann Satterfield said in her opening statements that a witness for the state connected Chris Arnold's DNA to the blue plastic and to Jones' hands -- parts of her body that hadn't been doused in chemicals.
State Desk on 09/20/2017
Print Headline: Witnesses describe finding slain 85-year-old friend