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Jury trial scheduled in Bentonville murder case

by Tracy Neal | January 22, 2022 at 7:01 a.m.
Zachary Avans

BENTONVILLE -- Prosecutors are still weighing whether to seek the death penalty for a Bella Vista man accused of killing another man.

Zachary Avans, 23, is charged with capital murder and aggravated residential burglary. He has pleaded not guilty to the charge.

Byron Keith Blackmon, 30, was found shot April 27 on Northwest Fifth Street in Bentonville. He died at Northwest Medical Center in Bentonville.

Avans was in court Friday, and Benton County Circuit Judge Robin Green set his jury trial to begin Sept. 20. She ordered attorneys to exchange witness lists 45 days before the trial.

The judge asked Joshua Robinson, deputy prosecutor, about seeking the death penalty. He said the death penalty is still on the table.

"At the moment I feel comfortable I know and I will not unnecessarily drag it out," Robinson said.

Robinson said he will decide and tell Avans' attorneys when they have to exchange witness lists.

Shannon Schmidt told police he and Avans are friends, according to the probable cause affidavit. Schmidt said Avans asked him to drive him April 27 to Bentonville to visit another friend. Schmidt said he drove Avans to Bentonville, and Avans asked him to drive around and then come back to pick him up. Schmidt said he picked up Avans near Northwest B Street, according to the affidavit.

Schmidt told police Avans burned the shirt he had been wearing in a fire pit when they returned to Schmidt's home, according to the affidavit.

A neighbor of Blackmon's heard Blackmon yelling for help and found him lying in the street, the affidavit states.

Avans faces life imprisonment or the death penalty if convicted of the murder charge. The burglary charge is punishable with a prison sentence ranging from 10 to 40 years or life imprisonment.

He is being held without bail in the Benton County Jail.

Print Headline: Jury trial scheduled in Bentonville murder case

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