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Arkansas bite victim dies; police focus on caretaker

by Kenneth Heard | May 20, 2017 at 4:30 a.m. | Updated May 22, 2017 at 4:30 a.m.

An elderly Cherokee Village woman whom police found in her home covered in bite marks last week has died, and authorities are investigating her caretaker in the death, Prosecuting Attorney Henry Boyce of Newport said Friday.

Jane Palmer Sandefur, 92, died Thursday evening in White River Medical Center in Batesville.

Her son, Scott Sandefur, told police he went to his mother's home on Mixtec Drive in Cherokee Village to check on her May 11 and found her and her caretaker, Jennifer Lea Collins, 55, on the floor in a pool of blood.

An affidavit requesting a search warrant to obtain blood samples taken from Collins, filed in Sharp County Circuit Court by Cherokee Village Police Chief Rickey Crook, said Sandefur had bite marks to her face, hand, arm, leg and breast.

"The victim appeared to have part of her chin bitten off," Crook wrote in the affidavit.

Crook noted that Collins had blood on her mouth and smelled of alcohol.

"[Collins] was not making any sense in answering questions or making statements," Crook said in the affidavit.

Crook was not available for comment Friday.

Cherokee Village police Sgt. Monte Lane said he could not comment on the case because it is an ongoing investigation. He referred calls to the prosecutor.

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Boyce, the prosecuting attorney for Sharp County, called the case "horrific and tragic."

Collins was taken to White River Medical Center's Cherokee Village complex for an examination. Police requested that medical personnel draw blood from Collins to "see what intoxicants were in her system," a search warrant granted by District Judge Mark Johnson said.

Scott Sandefur told police he hired Collins to care for his mother. Authorities did not know how long Collins worked for Sandefur or whether she was hired through a caretaking service or directly.

Police arrested Collins, and Boyce charged her May 12 with aggravated assault and abuse to an impaired and endangered person. Collins was held in the Sharp County jail in Ash Flat in lieu of $50,000 bond.

Authorities sent Collins' blood sample to the state Crime Laboratory in Little Rock and are waiting for results, Boyce said.

Officials also sent Sandefur's body to the Crime Lab for an autopsy.

"Without question, I have to reconsider all of the evidence to determine if murder was committed," Boyce said Friday.

"Up until [Thursday], we were in the process of reviewing witnesses' statements, photographs and medical records concerning the treatment of the victim," Boyce said. "In light of [Sandefur's] death, we have to reassess our previous consideration. If we find facts that lead us to conclude she died of these injuries, we will charge [Collins] with murder."

State Desk on 05/20/2017

Print Headline: Elderly bite victim dies; police focus on caretaker

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