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Prosecutors consider murder charge for Arkansas teen in arson case; victim died months after fire

by Stephen Simpson | March 28, 2019 at 1:22 p.m.

Prosecutors are discussing filing a murder charge against a teenager who has been charged as an adult in connection with a fire that critically injured a woman who later died, according to court documents.

Deputy prosecuting attorney Tiarra Tanner on Wednesday asked the court to halt any consideration of transferring 17-year-old Johnathan Shultz's case to juvenile court because the victim, 64-year-old Marcia Patton, died from her injuries months after the Oct. 8, 2018, fire.

“The state requests this court to stay the issuance of a written ruling on the defendant's motion for juvenile transfer; that the court reopen the juvenile transfer hearing to take additional testimony; and for any all other relief of which the state is entitled,” Tanner wrote in a filing.

Shultz and Gabriel Walton, 17, of Jonesboro, were charged as adults last year with arson, two counts of residential burglary, theft of a firearm and misdemeanor theft.

Patton remained hospitalized from the date of the arson until she passed away on March 18, according to court documents.

Tanner said the Patton's body has been sent to the state Crime Lab to determine cause of death.

“The State of Arkansas now anticipates the filing of a homicide charge against the defendant,” Tanner wrote.

Shultz, Walton and an unidentified 16-year-old male were arrested on Oct. 10 as they walked past the Harrisburg Road home where the fire occurred two days earlier.

Firefighters initially responded to the blaze after receiving a call from a witness. The caller said he spotted the house fire and was able to notify the owner's daughter.

Patton, the owner's daughter, ran into the burning house and had to be rescued by the Jonesboro Fire Department, according to a probable cause affidavit. Police said she was resuscitated on scene and placed in the Intensive Care Unit at the Med in Memphis.

Fire marshals said evidence showed the residence had been entered through a broken window and that the fire had been intentionally set.

Walton is due in court on April 8.

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