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'17 rampage earns 40-year prison term

Prosecutor describes ‘lots of carnage’ by Bill Bowden | May 2, 2021 at 1:00 a.m.

After a Christmas 2017 crime rampage in which he killed one man, shot another and threw a woman off a bridge over the Arkansas River, Richard Gilliam, 37, of Little Rock, has pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 40 years in prison, said a Lonoke County prosecutor.

John Huggins, chief deputy prosecutor for Lonoke County, said Gilliam caused "lots of carnage" in a house trailer near Scott just before midnight on Christmas Eve 2017.

Gilliam shot Arlin Wayne Nugent twice with a 12-gauge shotgun, said Huggins. Gilliam also shot Jeffery Dunlap in the leg with the shotgun and in the mouth with a .22-caliber rifle before cutting his throat, said Huggins.

Nugent died. Dunlap survived.

Jamie Shipp, who was in the trailer, was able to call 911 before Gilliam abducted her. He drove to Little Rock and stopped on the Interstate 430 bridge over the Arkansas River.

Huggins said it was about 2 a.m. on Christmas Day when Gilliam gave Shipp a choice: two gunshots to the head or go in the river.

Shipp didn't respond, then found herself thrown over the railing.

Huggins said it's about a 40-foot drop to the water below, but the river was shallow in that area.

"Jamie Shipp said when she hit the water, she thought was going to drown. But she put a foot down. She felt the ground, so she was kind of able to dog-paddle and make her way to the shore," said Huggins.

Someone heard her screaming and called the police.

"She actually did not really have any injuries," said Huggins. "She had a little bit of hypothermia and a sore shoulder."

Gilliam and another man, Deymon Javon Webb, then 28 -- were arrested after being identified by Shipp, according to an affidavit in the case.

In 2019, Webb pleaded guilty to kidnapping and was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

On Wednesday, Gilliam pleaded guilty to first-degree murder, two counts of attempted capital murder, kidnapping, first-degree battery, being a felon in possession of a firearm and third-degree escape, said Huggins. Gilliam was initially charged with capital murder instead of first-degree murder.

Huggins said prosecutors initially sought the death penalty under the capital-murder charge, but Circuit Judge Barbara Elmore found Gilliam to have "intellectual disabilities" as defined by Arkansas Code Annotated 5-4-618.

"No defendant with intellectual disabilities at the time of committing capital murder shall be sentenced to death," according to the statute.

Since Gilliam, who is a habitual offender, had a federal conviction for bank robbery, he would have to serve the full 35 years of his sentence for first-degree murder and the other charges except for the escape charge, said Huggins.

An escape attempt while in custody tacked another five years on to his sentence, bringing the total to 40 years. But the five-year escape charge could be subject to parole, said Huggins.

Capt. David Bufford with the Lonoke County sheriff's office said Gilliam got into the ceiling from a holding cell but didn't escape from the jail building.

Huggins said Elmore had sealed Gilliam's case to prevent jurors from accessing the state's online court records and doing any research.

Huggins said police never recovered the guns that were used in the shootings.


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