LITTLE ROCK Defendants in a lawsuit filed by the boyfriend of murder victim Nona Dirksmeyer denied in a court filing Monday that they conspired to protect another suspect from prosecution.
“Defendants deny being involved in any conspiracy with Gary Dunn,” the filing in U.S. District Court says.
In December, Kevin Jones, 26, sued Russellville police detective Mark Frost, former Russellville Police Chief James Bacon and Dunn, who — after Jones’ acquittal in 2007 — was tried twice but never convicted.
In July, a federal judge granted Jones’ motion to add the city of Russellville as a defendant.
Jones’ lawsuit contends the defendants “aided and abetted one another in a conspiratorial scheme to withhold evidence and falsify information toward having Kevin charged and prosecuted for Nona’s murder, rather than Dunn.”
In the filing Monday, the defendants said Frost investigated Dunn’s alibi but denied the purported scheme.
Jones’ lawsuit contends Frost investigated Dunn’s alibi and “determined it was false” but “lied to Prosecutor David Gibbons by telling him that Dunn’s alibi cleared him.”
“Bacon also knew the alibi was false but pointedly did not advise the prosecutor,” the complaint adds.
The defendants counter that they “deny the characterization of the allegations regarding what Frost told Gibbons regarding Dunn’s alibi.”
In 2008, Dunn, now 32, was arrested in the death, but the juries deadlocked in two trials. The murder charge against him was later dismissed.
The defendants’ court response also says they “deny any and all wrongdoing” and that the statute of limitations bars either all or part of Jones’ claims.
Steve Sheppard, a professor at the University of Arkansas School of Law in Fayetteville, has previously said statute of limitations restrictions can vary from one to 21 years, depending on each part of the case.
Jones’ attorneys could argue that he couldn’t sue until he knew certain authorities had not acted in good faith, Sheppard said. The statute of limitations also can be stalled if a defendant hid evidence, Sheppard added.
The defendants also contend Jones cannot recover punitive damages — those assessed to punish rather than to recover lost money or value — from a municipality under the law. Further, Jones hasn’t exhausted potential state court remedies before pursuing the case in federal court, they add.
Dirksmeyer, 19, was an Arkansas Tech University music major who often competed in beauty pageants.
Authorities have said the killer punched, strangled and tried to cut her throat before bludgeoning her to death with a floor lamp in her apartment.