Restaurateur Quenton King was sentenced to life in prison Thursday for killing his pregnant mistress, a woman prosecutors said had unintentionally provoked his wrath by publicly revealing the impending birth of their daughter.
That disclosure, made on Facebook just before the slaying, put King's marriage at risk and endangered his true love, the Chicken King restaurants, which are in his wife's name, chief deputy prosecutor John Johnson said.
Megan Price was killed because she wanted some recognition of their 14-year clandestine affair and the daughter who was coming, the prosecutor said.
King needed her dead so he could access her Facebook account, delete the announcement and try to keep his wife from finding out he'd fathered a fifth child out of wedlock, Johnson said.
"The thing he valued most -- over life, over love -- was that business," he told a Pulaski County jury in closing arguments. "The only one who has anything to gain by her being gone is that man."
Authorities were only able to obtain a copy of the Facebook announcement because Price's childhood friend, North Little Rock police detective Lionel Timms, took a photograph of it an hour after it was posted. The message describes how eager Price is about having a daughter with King.
"I love you so much, Quenton King. Fourteen years and still going strong. I cannot imagine a better father," the message stated. "When you rub my stomach it's like she already knows you."
Jurors deliberated about 2½ hours to find King guilty of capital murder in the death of the North Little Rock mother of two in June 2015. King and his wife have been married since October 2000.
King, who did not testify, stood quietly before Circuit Judge Herb Wright as he imposed the automatic life sentence.
The 38-year-old defendant has been composed throughout the three-day trial. The only time his demeanor dimmed -- and then only slightly -- was Wednesday when his lawyer played the 911 recording of Price's daughter calling for help. The then 20-year-old and her boyfriend had just discovered her mother's naked body, dead from three close-range gunshots in the head.
The six-minute recording was almost completely overwhelmed by the sound of Keona Rouse's anguished screams as she and her boyfriend, torn with horror and grief, struggled to find the words to tell dispatchers where they were and what had happened.
King lowered his gaze and brushed his right hand twice over his face while less than 10 feet behind him, Rouse sobbed quietly as she relived the moment from the audience.
The recording appeared to have some significance to the jurors, who listened to it again about 20 minutes before reaching their decision.
"The only thing ... proved with that 911 call is what it sounds like when someone's heart has been ripped out. That is the sound of grief. That is the sound of pain -- pain that this man caused," Johnson said in his closing remarks as he pointed at the defendant.
Price's killer was so close that gunpowder burned her face. One bullet just missed her right eye and stuck in her scalp, while another went through her left cheek and exited near the top of her head.
But it was the third shot -- fired by a gun pressed against the top of Price's head -- that proved how much King wanted her dead, the prosecutor said.
He asked jurors to picture how close King had to get to Price to do two things: make sure she was dead, then press her hand against her cellphone. King needed her thumbprint to unlock the device to access Price's account and delete the message, Johnson said.
"If she was alive, she could have felt his breath," the prosecutor said. "He had to be certain she was dead."
Defense attorney Ron Davis appealed to jurors to embrace their duty to impartially weigh the evidence. He urged them to not get swept up in the tragedy and not let their emotions send an innocent man to prison just because he's the one police chose as the killer.
"You're not here to decide whether a terrible thing has been done." he said. "We all want to cry."
Jurors might not like King but that does not make him a killer, Davis said in his closing argument.
"I don't want him to marry one of my babies, but that doesn't mean he did it," the attorney said. "And more importantly, it doesn't mean the state has proven it."
Davis said police settled too easily on King, overlooking two potential suspects -- a former boyfriend and David Kincade, the prosecution's star witness. The lawyer denounced the investigation as shoddy and rushed, raising his voice and looking into the audience as if speaking directly to police Sgt. Clint O'Kelley, who was watching the proceeding.
If Kincade knows as much about how Price was killed as prosecutors claim, why didn't police investigate him, even just to make sure Kincade was not the murderer, Davis asked.
"You don't take a man's freedom based on David Kincade," he said.
Kincade "has no reason to lie to you," deputy prosecutor Jeanna Sherrill told jurors.
It makes perfect sense that King, panicking as police closed in on him, would pour out his heart to the older man, a childhood friend who taught King the chicken-wing business and introduced King to his wife, the prosecutor said.
"When you panic, you're looking for somebody to talk to, and that's what [King] did with David Kincade," she said.
The only way that Kincade knows so much about Price's killing is because King told him, Sherrill said. Kincade's account is confirmed by Price's cellphone records and explains why her Facebook announcement somehow vanished from the Internet, she said.
Most importantly, Kincade knew before police did that King's back-door home security camera had stopped working the same weekend Price was killed, she said.
King had disconnected that camera so he could sneak out of his house in the gated Ashley Downs subdivision, the prosecutor said.
Property records show King and his wife bought the 2,300-square-foot home with its 1.4-acre lot in Scott 11 years ago for $180,000.
King had been facing a second capital-murder count, representing the death of the unborn baby Price planned to name Keela, but the judge dismissed that charge for lack of evidence after prosecutors rested their case Wednesday.
The defense argued that because medical examiners couldn't conclusively state why the baby died, the charge should be thrown out. The fetus was not autopsied but was subjected to a postmortem visual inspection.
The ruling, that prosecutors had not proved that the child had been alive when Price was killed, was condemned Thursday as "ludicrous" by the Arkansas Family Council.
"Judge Wright's decision in this case ignores Arkansas' homicide laws, and it ignores the life of this unborn baby," council President Jerry Cox said in a news release. "The Arkansas Constitution says a judge can be impeached for gross misconduct. If this is not gross misconduct, I don't know what is."
A Section on 10/20/2017
Print Headline: Restaurateur killed mistress, jury decides