A prosecuting attorney in Searcy will not proceed with a decades-old murder case at this time because authorities cannot obtain and test any additional evidence in time for a previously scheduled jury trial.
Brandon Wheeler had been scheduled for trial Monday in the death of Jarrod Green, who was 20 when his father reported him missing in early October 1994. Wheeler, whose date of birth was partially redacted from court records, is 41 or 42.
Judge Robert Edwards, ruling in White County Circuit Court, approved the motion by Prosecuting Attorney Rebecca Reed McCoy on Wednesday. She hopes to refile the charges later.
Authorities have never found a body or remains believed to be Green's but have been draining a pond in rural White County in the hopes of finding additional evidence in the case. Among the evidence police hope to find are the victim's remains, Searcy Police Department spokesman Terri Lee said Thursday.
Wheeler of Weatherford, Texas, was arrested in May and charged with capital murder and abuse of a corpse. He was free on $100,000 bond when Edwards approved the nolle pros motion by McCoy.
Unlike the situation when a case is dismissed, a prosecutor can refile a homicide charge that has been nolle-prossed as long as "good cause" is shown and the refiling is within the statute of limitations, McCoy said Thursday. There is no time limit on a homicide charge, she said.
McCoy's motion said that "additional evidence is expected to be recovered and DNA testing would not be completed with the time frames set by the Court."
McCoy said Thursday that she could not discuss specific evidence, including the status of any human remains, but she said police are working on the pond draining where authorities hope to find additional evidence.
"Detectives involved in this case have been working steadily for this entire period of time" to drain the pond, McCoy said. "Some of it [the delay] was the weather." Getting the proper equipment and "some other snags" slowed the process, she said.
She said it was too soon to say when the pond draining would be complete.
"I hope to be able to obtain enough evidence to refile charges," McCoy said. "I know that the Green family definitely deserves justice. They deserve answers on where Jarrod is."
Part of Wheeler's bond conditions had included surrendering his and his wife's passports. He also had to remain in Arkansas.
Asked if she was concerned that Wheeler could leave the country to avoid future charges, McCoy said she would work to extradite him if he goes to another state or country.
No one answered the phone at the law firm representing Wheeler after normal business hours Thursday.
In early October, defense attorney Michael Petty argued in a court document for dismissal of the abuse-of-a-corpse charge against Wheeler. "In this case, Mr. Jarrod Green's corpse, assuming that he is even dead, as the prosecutor alleges, has never been discovered," Petty wrote in part.
Under Arkansas law, capital murder is punishable by life in prison without parole or death. A defense motion filed early in the case said the state had indicated it intended to waive the death penalty.
State Desk on 11/10/2017
Print Headline: Officials back off '94-kill charges