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Rogers man sentenced to 20 years in prison after pleading guilty to second-degree murder charge

by Tracy Neal | September 14, 2022 at 6:58 a.m.

BENTONVILLE -- A Rogers man pleaded guilty Tuesday to second-degree murder and was sentenced to 20 years in the Arkansas Department of Corrections.

Zackary Whitcomb, 21, of Rogers, was originally charged with capital murder, but agreed to plead guilty to the lesser charge under an agreement Bill James, Whitcomb's attorney, reached with Bryan Sexton, chief deputy prosecutor.

Benton County Circuit Judge Brad Karren sentenced Whitcomb.

Whitcomb was arrested Feb. 26, 2020, in connection with killing Lavonte Jackson. Jackson's body was found Feb. 24, 2020, on the side of Van Hollow Road near Beaver Lake. Jackson was 23 years old when he died.

Sexton said Whitcomb aided David Adair with killing Jackson. Adair, 28, of Rogers pleaded guilty in May to second-degree murder and was sentenced to 30 years in prison.

Lydia Riggs, 23, pleaded guilty last month to second-degree murder for her role in Jackson's death. She was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Sexton read several victim impact statements from Jackson's family members.

Elijah Jackson wrote about the impact his brother's murder has had on him.

"You took a brother, you took a father, you took a best friend," Sexton read from the letter. "I hope you are forever haunted by your actions. It is hard for me to do this respectfully due to the court, but in a manner that is appropriate."

Sexton read a statement from Arnold and April Jackson, Lavonte Jackson's parents. They said in their statement Jackson wasn't only their son, but a brother of six and father of two.

"The worst thing is the grief," Sexton read. "It's an unending pain that only a parent that has lost a child knows, a pain inflicted upon our family."

Sexton read another statement on behalf of Chelsey Martin, Jackson's fiancee.

"I would also like to say that I truly forgive you for what you have done, not for myself but for Lavonte because that's exactly what he would want me to do and be at peace," Sexton read. "He is still loved, and he will get justice."

Whitcomb did not make any statements in court when the judge gave him the opportunity.

Mark Brannan, 33, of Fayetteville was arrested in connection with helping to conceal Jackson's body. He pleaded guilty Tuesday under a plea agreement Heather Hersh, Brannan's attorney, reached with Sexton.

Brannan pleaded guilty to abuse of corpse, hindering apprehension and tampering charges.

He was sentenced to 20 years in the Arkansas Department of Corrections.


Print Headline: Man gets 20-year sentence in murder case

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