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Arkansas prosecutor decries woman's release in boy's death

Never told woman freed after 4 months, she says by Debra Hale-Shelton | November 29, 2016 at 5:45 a.m. | Updated November 29, 2016 at 9:46 a.m.
Volunteer searcher Pat Munson walks Park Avenue in Searcy looking for missing toddler Malik Drummond beside a missing poster taped to a utility pole on Nov. 25, 2014.

The prosecutor who handled the case of a woman who helped cover up the murder of 2-year-old Malik Drummond said Monday that her office would have "strenuously objected" to the woman's early release from the state's prison system but never got the chance.

Prosecuting Attorney Rebecca Reed McCoy of Searcy said Monday that her office was "caught off guard" by the Nov. 18 release of Lesley Sue Marcotte, just four months after Marcotte went to prison for the cover-up.

"We did not realize she was admitted into [the state's] boot-camp program," McCoy said, adding that her office also wasn't advised of Marcotte's release after it occurred. "Apparently her release from that program [was] automatic."

"We certainly would have strenuously objected" if given the opportunity. "We are all very, very, very frustrated."

Marcotte, 28, was sentenced July 6 to 10 years in prison on a felony charge of hindering apprehension or prosecution after she admitted to police that she had lied to protect her boyfriend, Jeffery Clifton, 44, the father of the Searcy toddler and the man convicted of beating his son to death Nov. 20, 2014.

Authorities have said Clifton put the body in a vehicle and disposed of it on a vacant lot in another county days later. He and Marcotte told police that Malik walked away from home and was missing.

Marcotte, who lived in Searcy with Clifton at the time of Malik's death in November 2014, will be supervised now that she is free until her sentence is completed by Arkansas Community Correction, which oversees former prisoners on parole or probation.

"We are not happy she's out," McCoy said. "I learned she was out ... when we called to find out."

"We expected her to serve at least 20 months when she would be eligible for parole, and we expected to be able to have an opportunity to object" at that point, McCoy said.

Correction Department spokesman Solomon Graves said in an email Monday that the agency "does not have a policy that provides for prior notice to a prosecuting attorney of an inmate's placement into, or release from, the Boot Camp Program."

Dina Tyler, a spokesman for Arkansas Community Correction, said Marcotte went to boot camp "because she was convicted of hindering apprehension, which is a nonviolent crime, and she met the criteria for Boot Camp."

"To go there, the crime must be nonviolent and [nonsexual] and the sentence cannot be longer than 15 years," Tyler said in an email. "Marcotte fit the requirements. Those who go to Boot Camp can be released to community supervision after completing the 105-day program, which she was."

McCoy acknowledged that "hindering apprehension isn't on its a face a violent offense." But she said, "It certainly involved a violent offense. ... We never would have dreamed she [Marcotte] would have been eligible."

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Further, victims or their families can often go online to track the status of offenders after their release for safety reasons. But, which provides such information on current and former inmates, says, "Registration for notification [of Marcotte's status] is not currently available for this offender."

Marcotte moved to Springdale at some point after she and Clifton were no longer a couple.

In August, the Correction Department's board decided to cease operation of the boot camp program after its current inmates complete the course.

The program, created to enforce military-style discipline with inmates before their release, was plagued by high rates of recidivism and a number of empty beds, even as prisons across the state faced crowding, the department's director, Wendy Kelley, said in August.

Graves said Monday that the "last participants will complete the [boot camp] program early next month."

Solomon released a long list of crimes that would have precluded someone from being eligible for the program. Among them were three separate felony crimes that involve permitting a child to be abused.

When Marcotte finally changed her story and implicated Clifton in Malik's death and in the body's disposal, Marcotte also implicated Clifton in previous beatings of Malik and his twin sister.

Marcotte was not charged with permitting any abuse. Nor was she charged with abusing Malik.

Among other factors inmates must meet for entry into the boot camp program was one that they not have been "convicted of crimes that involved violence, weapons or conduct that could have resulted in injury or potential injury to the victim or other persons." Malik's twin sister was staying at the Clifton house along with Malik at the time of the killing.

The children normally lived with their mother, Tanya Drummond of Searcy.

"She [Marcotte] should have done more time and [been] charged with my son's death," Drummond said in a Facebook message to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. She added that "justice for my son ... has not been served."

McCoy said she could not comment specifically on evidence, "but I can tell you we only charged her [Marcotte] with what we could prove. I could not prove that she" abused Malik. "We don't know if she" abused him.

McCoy said her office sent the Correction Department affidavits that contained details of the case.

State Desk on 11/29/2016

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