HOT SPRINGS -- A man was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to 30 years in prison Wednesday in the 2013 stabbing death of another Hot Springs man after a two-day trial in Garland County Circuit Court.
A nine-woman, three-man jury deliberated for a little more than an hour before finding Richard Dean "Bear" Bailey, 35, guilty in the death of Anthony Ray Ward, 42, whose body was found July 10, 2013, on the Hot Springs Creek Greenway Trail in Hollywood Park.
Bailey was originally charged with first-degree murder, but the jury opted for the lesser offense. After a short sentencing hearing, jurors deliberated for less than 30 minutes before recommending the maximum sentence of 30 years in prison.
Bailey had admitted to Hot Springs police that he stabbed Ward, but said Ward was raping or attempting to rape his fiancee and he stabbed Ward to protect her.
Johnathan Ray Umphlett, 25, a former cellmate of Bailey at the Garland County jail, testified that Bailey had first told him he stabbed Ward in self-defense but later told him that he found Ward sleeping and tried to rob him but killed him when he woke up. Umphlett is now serving five years in prison in the sexual assault of a 7-year-old boy.
When questioned by deputy prosecutor Joe Graham, Umphlett said he was already convicted when he contacted prosecutors about what Bailey told him and didn't ask for or receive any compensation for his testimony.
Mark Fraiser, Bailey's court-appointed attorney, had indicated in his opening statement that Bailey would testify, but later told the jury it wasn't necessary after Graham presented a videotaped police interview with Bailey.
Bailey said he and his fiancee, Debbie Mullins, 30 -- who now goes by her maiden name, Debbie Huggins -- had gone to National Park Medical Center the night of July 9 to seek treatment for his injured finger. While walking home, they had stopped in Hollywood Park so Huggins could use the restroom.
He said there was "a guy talking to her" by the bathroom, and then five or 10 minutes later, "All I remember was he ripped her shirt and got on top of her." He said he heard her shirt ripping and ran over and "I got hold of his arm and stabbed him."
He said they "took off" afterward, and he threw the knife away because "I just stabbed a guy with it. I freaked out."
Bailey said he didn't know Ward was dead until he read about it in the newspaper the next day.
When a Hot Springs police detective questioned how most of the blood was found on an overlook and not near the restrooms, where Bailey said it happened, Bailey said, "I don't know how everything is. I only know how it happened."
Huggins testified that she and Bailey had been engaged for three years and had known each other for 13 years.
She said they had argued after leaving the hospital, and she had walked ahead of him when she stopped at the park restroom. She said Ward had approached her and asked to borrow her phone. She said she told him it was dead.
She said she didn't see Ward again when she came out of the restroom and walked over to the overlook. She said he then "grabbed my wrist and pulled me down."
She said she wasn't going to fight because she has a bone disease that makes her bones break easily, and she assumed he was going to rape her.
She said he ripped her shirt, and she yelled either "help" or "Bear," then Bailey ran up and grabbed Ward off her.
She said she "scooted over" and she heard Ward say, "I got you, m*****," and then heard Bailey yell for her to run.
She said she didn't call police later because she was scared and she didn't want Bailey to go to prison.
In his closing remarks, Graham noted numerous inconsistencies in Bailey's statements and how his statements were inconsistent with Huggins' original statements and her testimony Wednesday.
"Actions speak louder than words," he said, and argued that Bailey had the intent to kill Ward because he "stabbed him in the heart."
Fraiser had argued from the beginning that Bailey had no motive to kill Ward other than the attack on Huggins. He said the testimony of Umphlett "gave them motive" but questioned, "How are you going to believe anything that comes out of his mouth?"
"So this was either a coldblooded murder for no reason, or a robbery that went badly, or are they telling the truth?" he asked.
State Desk on 05/01/2015