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State ties suspect to goods stolen from site of 5 killings

by Claudia Lauer | June 16, 2011 at 4:25 a.m.

— Garland County prosecutors worked to connect items stolen from the homes of five people killed in Pearcy in November 2009 to Samuel Conway during testimony Wednesday in his capital murder trial.

Conway, 25, is facing five counts of capital murder, one count of arson, two counts of aggravated burglary and four counts of theft of property in the shooting deaths of Jeremy Gentry, 24; his girlfriend, Kristyn Warneke,19; his grandfather, Edward Gentry Sr., 80; and his parents, Edward Gentry Jr., 55, and Pamela Gentry, 52.

Another man, Jeremy Pickney, 25, will face the same charges in his trial scheduled for July 12. A third suspect in the killings, Marvin Stringer, was shot and killed during a standoff with police when they tried to arrest him at a Hot Springs motel soon after the killings.

Prosecuting Attorney Steve Oliver and deputy prosecuting attorneys Joe Graham and Ron Jones presented acase based on revenge as a motive. Witnesses testified that Conway’s older brother suspected that Jeremy Gentry had stolen expensive tires and rims from one of his cars and that the elder Conway brother had asked Samuel Conway and Pickney for help burglarizing the Gentry home.

Prosecutors said the burglary turned violent, the five victims were killed and the trailer was set on fire to destroy any evidence left behind. Police said a truck be-longing to Edward Gentry Sr. was found ablaze about eight miles away in Hot Springs.

Defense attorneys Pat Aydelott and Amy Jackson-Kell spent most of the trial Wednesday asking witnesses for direct proof of Conway’s involvement. They also worked to raise a seed of doubt that someone else might have killed Jeremy Gentry and his family as revenge because Jeremy Gentry had driven to Florida two weeks before his death to trade a car for a set of rims that he told friends might have been stolen.

Investigators with the Arkansas State Police, the Garland County sheriff’s office and the Hot Springs Police Department began the day Wednesday with testimony about the gruesome scene they found in the early morning hours of Nov. 12, 2009.

The home of Edward Gentry Jr. was engulfed in flames when firefighters responded to a 911 call about 2:30 a.m.

As crews worked to douse the fire, they found the body of Pamela Gentry in the front bedroom. They went on to find the body of her husband, Edward Gentry Jr., in the kitchen; and the bodies of their son, Jeremy Gentry, and his girlfriend, Kristyn Warneke, in the bedroom they shared in the back of the home.

Warneke’s body was lying on the bed’s burned, exposed bed springs. Jeremy’s body had fallen through the floor to ground level because of the intense heat of the fire, which destroyed the double-wide trailer’s floor and left the bodies badly burned.

A couple of hours after the four bodies had been found in the trailer, investigators went to the main home on the property. Inside, they found ransacked rooms and the body of Edward Gentry Sr., a war veteran with two Purple Hearts who had survived cancer. His leg had been amputated six months earlier during treatment.

He had been shot twice in the head at close range, authorities said.

According to testimony, his foot and prosthetic leg were bound with sheets, and his legs were bound with cords. There was duct tape around one of his hands and residue from where he had likely broken the other hand free from the duct tape.

His body was found several feet from his wheelchair, in the entrance to another room, where his daughter testified that he kept a gun.

Throughout the testimony, Aydelott countered witnesses with similar questions.

“Did any DNA, prints, bodily fluids or fibers belong to Sam Conway?” he asked one investigator, followed quickly with, “Do you know who made that bullet hole?”

The witnesses consistently answered no.

The prosecution also presented about a dozen witnesses trying to connect Conway, Pickney, Stringer and their respective family members with items stolen from the Gentry home that were later recovered, including television sets, guns and two sets of custom rims and tires worth more than $10,000.

Conway’s former girlfriend and the mother of his child, Shayla Kiese, testified Wednesday that she had overheard Conway talking to his brother about going to Jeremy Gentry’s home to seek revenge and “hit a lick” - slang for robbing a house.

Kiese also said Conway, Stringer and Pickney had brought stolen items into her apartment later that night, including television sets, guns, a check from the U.S. Army made out to a member of the Gentry family, and Jeremy Gentry’s driver’s license.

“He wanted to use thechecks; he wanted to pay a phone bill with them. I told him he shouldn’t because someone would probably report that they were stolen,” she said.

“He told me, ‘You never have to worry about these checks being reported stolen.’ I asked what he meant, but he didn’t answer me,” Kiese said.

Her cousin, Adrienne Perry, Jeremy Pickney’s former girlfriend, also testified about seeing the stolen goods in the apartment she shared with Kiese. Both women said they were never told about the killings but found out about them when they went to visit Kiese’s mother.

“I called Sam and asked him if he knew anything about it. He said he didn’t know what I was talking about,” Kiese testified. “I didn’t want to believe the man I had sleeping in my bed and the father of my child had killed five people.”

At the urging of her grandfather, Kiese called the police to report the stolen items in her home, she testified.

Conway and P ickney fought after they returned to the women’s apartment with the stolen items the night of Nov. 11, Kiese and Perry said.

Hot Springs police said they responded to a report about the disturbance and saw televisions inside Conway’s Cadillac but did not search it because they didn’t have probable cause or a search warrant.

The women also testified that as far as they knew, Conway and Pickney remained in their respective beds throughout the night.

Law enforcement officials said they linked the three suspects or their family members to various stolen items that were recovered. A police informant attempted to buy rims and guns from Stringer, succeeding on several purchases that were linked back to the Gentry family, police said.

A pawnshop owner also testified that Teresa Hunter, the girlfriend of one of Conway’s older brothers, had traded in two sets of rims that matched those stolen from the Gentry home.

Testimony for the prosecution is scheduled to resume today at 8:30 a.m.

Conway is facing another capital murder charge, along with two other people, in the 2005 death of Mary Anderson in Hot Springs. The 50-year-old grandmother was baby-sitting her two toddler grandchildren when she was robbed and killed in her home.

Arkansas, Pages 9 on 06/16/2011

Print Headline: State ties suspect to goods stolen from site of 5 killings

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