LITTLE ROCK -- A 24-year-old Benton man whose ties to illegal drugs first came to the attention of Little Rock police when he was involved in a fatal car wreck has been sentenced to 25 years in prison.
Sentencing papers filed on Tuesday show that Lebarron Tyquez Stewart pleaded guilty to fleeing, simultaneous possession of drugs and firearms, possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute and failure to appear in exchange for the 25-year sentence from Pulaski County Circuit Judge Leon Johnson. The plea agreement was negotiated by deputy prosecutor Wilson Raines and defense attorney Caitlen Bennett.
Court records show Stewart was arrested for drug possession three more times after the July 22, 2018, crash that killed 24-year-old Stevie Michele Lavendusky of Benton. One of those arrests was linked to a Little Rock car chase in which Stewart eluded state troopers, court filings show.
Stewart was not charged in the early morning crash that killed Lavendusky at Interstate 30 frontage road and Bass Pro Parkway, although his insurer did pay a settlement to her family.
According to the crash report, Stewart, driving a borrowed 2003 black Chevrolet Malibu, was traveling "at a high rate of speed" west on the frontage road about 4:30 a.m. when Stewart veered from the right-hand lane into the far left lane to pass a tractor-trailer rig just before the Bass Pro intersection.
The Malibu ran off the south side of the frontage road and hit the guardrail, then traveled 37 feet along the rail before striking a concrete barrier. The car then overturned and landed upside down. Lavendusky died at the scene. Stewart, then living in Little Rock, was not reported to be injured.
Police found two handguns in the wrecked car, one of them a 9mm pistol that had been reported stolen in Benton, with 26 rounds of ammunition, plus some marijuana, methamphetamine and MDMA pills, also known as Ecstasy. Stewart would not answer investigators' questions and was arrested.
His next arrest came in Feb. 19, 2019, about seven months later, when Benton police stopped Stewart, a Benton resident, for driving a silver Hyundai Elantra with expired tags. The car turned out to be stolen, and Stewart was arrested. Officers could smell marijuana in the car and they found a large bag of marijuana, several small plastic bags with marijuana residue and a digital scale.
By then, Stewart had been a fugitive from Little Rock authorities for about three weeks after a Jan. 24, 2019, police pursuit from which Stewart had been able to elude police, although investigators found marijuana and a gun inside the car Stewart had left behind, court filings show.
He was next arrested on Jan. 21 by Benton police who made arrangements to buy an ounce of marijuana and five Xanax tablets from Stewart through Snapchat, the photograph-sharing social media platform.
Investigators, knowing Stewart's driver's license was suspended, pulled him over as he drove to meet undercover officers.
According to an arrest report, Stewart had a small bag of about 5 grams of marijuana hanging out of his pocket when he got out of his car. Police found another 39 grams of grams of marijuana, about 1⅓ ounces, and five Xanax tablets in the car, and he was arrested on drug trafficking charges that are still pending in Saline County Circuit Court.
Stewart once again became a fugitive when he failed to show up in Pulaski County Circuit Court for proceedings on Jan. 30 and was not recaptured until March 31, when his bail bondsman turned him in. He's been jailed ever since.
"I understand ... missing court was wrong and doesn't help but I was dealing with my great grandmother's death and my great grandfather being in the hospital," he wrote in an April letter to the court. "I'm not using that as an excuse but after the loss of my fiancee in 2018 and then my best friend in 2019, I've battled with depression I didn't know how to talk about. I've used drugs [to deal with] the pain."
In Saline County, Stewart has pleaded guilty to possession of marijuana with intent to deliver and theft by receiving for his February 2019 arrest in Benton.
Court records show that in 2017, Stewart was one of two men charged with first-degree battery over the Feb. 20, 2017, shooting of Devin Christopher Bone, 28, of Little Rock in the parking lot of the Academy Sports in Benton.