A 20-year-old Polk County woman sentenced to life in prison in the slaying of an 80-year-old Mena man lost her appeal before the Arkansas Supreme Court.
Cheyenne Fink, convicted in Polk County Circuit Court in May 2014 of first-degree murder in the stabbing of Loyd Cole, argued that her severe mental illnesses precluded her from being able to have killed Cole on purpose.
On Thursday, the court upheld Fink's conviction and sentence, finding that though there was some evidence that Fink's mental illness could have rendered her not culpable, there was ample evidence showing she wasn't affected by the illness at the time of the slaying and that a jury of her peers had the ability to decide that on its own.
Fink was 17 on Dec. 3, 2012, when she alerted her mother that she was leaving the house to go for a walk.
During her walk, she encountered Cole, who was found faceup, dead in a ditch with 36 stab wounds.
Fink returned from her walk "short of breath" and with a large cut on her arm, according to the court, and she went to take a shower and asked her mother to wash her clothes.
Police followed a blood trail from Cole's body to the Fink residence and took possession of the bloodstained clothes and a collection of knives in Fink's bedroom, and matched Cole's DNA to the blood on her clothes.
Fink told investigators that she took the knife on a walk because "she missed her deceased brother" and had planned that morning to kill herself.
The teen denied killing Cole, telling investigators she didn't see him that day.
Fink pleaded innocent in Polk County by reason of mental disease or defect but was convicted.
Fink's attorney, Janice Vaughn, argued that Fink's mood disorders, as well as psychotic auditory hallucinations and delusions, made her incapable of having the "culpable mental state" to commit first-degree murder.
In an opinion written by Justice Rhonda Wood, the court found there was sufficient evidence to back up prosecutors' claims that Fink knowingly and purposely killed Cole.
Cole was a vulnerable target and was stabbed many times, and Fink tried to dispose of evidence and hid the knife she used, the court said.
"In addition to her deliberate acts after the murder to conceal evidence, law enforcement officers who interacted with Fink the day of the murder testified that they had clear conversations with her," Wood wrote. "Her mother testified that while Fink can be overly emotional at times, she was calm immediately prior to the murder."
There was never any discussion of a motive for Cole's killing.
Vaughn argued that the Supreme Court should negate Fink's conviction because there was expert testimony that showed Fink's mental diseases "made her unable to conform her conduct to the requirements of the law."
But an expert questioned by the state said Fink was not hallucinating or delusional on the day of the killing.
Wood's opinion noted that though there was conflicting evidence as to Fink's mental state, that conflict was a matter for the jury to determine and that they were "entitled to believe" the testimony they thought most truthful.
Vaughn also argued that the prosecutor in Fink's trial violated her rights to a fair trial by referring to psychology as "psycho-babble," calling her psychologist a "so-called expert" and saying her mental illness plea was a "cop out."
The court found that those arguments were not raised at trial and didn't meet the standard of being "so highly prejudicial" to be considered on appeal.
Fink remains in the McPherson prison facility in Newport.
Metro on 09/26/2015
Print Headline: Conviction in '12 slaying of Mena man, 80, upheld