Jury finds Shawna Cash guilty of capital murder in death of Pea Ridge police officer

Shawna Cash
Shawna Cash

BENTONVILLE -- A Pine Bluff woman who killed a Pea Ridge police officer when she struck him with the Jeep Cherokee she was driving, dragging his body 149 feet, was found guilty of capital murder by a jury on Thursday.

Prosecutors are seeking a death sentence for Shawna Cash in the June 2021 killing of officer Kevin Apple.

In addition to capital murder, the jury of seven men and five women found Cash guilty of fleeing, two counts of aggravated assault and obstructing governmental operations.

Cash, 25, did not emotionally react to the verdicts.

The sentencing phase of the trial in Benton County Circuit Court began Thursday after the verdicts were returned.

As they presented their case for the death penalty, prosecutors played a recording of the end of watch call for Apple as a photograph of him in uniform was displayed on two screens in the courtroom.

The call is the final radio call to the fallen officer from dispatch. A dispatcher requests the fallen officer by name and squad number. After a period of silence, the dispatcher will repeat the call once or twice more.

As the recording was played, some jurors wiped tears away with tissues. Some people in the packed courtroom also were crying, and a tissue box was passed around.

Prosecutors also showed the jury images of Apple's funeral procession.

The aggravating factors prosecutors listed to seek the punishment are: the murder was committed to avoid arrest and to disrupt or hinder the lawful exercise of any governmental or political function, and the murder was committed in "an especially cruel and depraved manner," according to court documents.

Benton County Circuit Judge Brad Karren denied a motion from Cash's defense to prohibit prosecutors from using the aggravating factors. Karren said he found it impossible that Cash did not know Apple was under the Jeep while she was driving away.

"She sees him," Karren said about Apple standing in front of the vehicle. "He's conscious, and he's fighting to the end."

Gabriel Stultz, a deputy prosecutor, played recordings from some of Cash's telephone calls in the Benton County jail.

"I can't believe I went worldwide news," Cash said in a call.

She then talks about making news everywhere, including on social media. She laughs about the reputation she's made for herself.

Stultz played a second recording in which Cash was talking to a man, and he referred to a can of applesauce as the two mentioned Apple. Cash wanted to know if the man had heard Dec. 12 was Officer Apple Day in Pea Ridge because Apple's badge number is 12-12.

A warning stating the call was being recorded was heard before Cash and the man started talking.

Lt. Richard Fordham with the Pea Ridge Police Department took the witness stand Thursday shortly after the verdict and described Kevin Apple as a unique person who took time to visit elderly people so they could have someone with whom to talk. He testified Apple came to work for the department in early 2020.

"Anytime he walked into a room you couldn't help but smile," he said.

Fordham said Apple wanted to serve and help the community.

"I trusted Kevin with my life," he said. "I trusted him with my family's life."

Prosecutors rested their case in the sentencing phase on Thursday.

The defense started calling witnesses Thursday afternoon.

Chris Cash, Shawna's brother, testified his father is bipolar and schizophrenic. Cash testified his parents divorced five months before his sister's birth. The family lived in Arizona but later moved to Waldron, he said.

Katherine Streett, one of Shawna Cash's attorneys, reviewed several police reports involving the Cash family. She also reviewed reports from state Department of Human Services concerning the treatment of Chris Cash and his two sisters.

Shawna Cash is his youngest sibling, Chris Cash said.

"Do you remember DHS workers coming to your home?" Streett asked.

"Sometimes, yes," Chris Cash replied.

He testified his father left the family after his parents argued over a can opener.

Chris Cash said his mother remarried, and the family moved to Illinois and lived in the basement of his stepfather's parents' house for a few months before returning to Arkansas and living in Mansfield.

Chris Cash will return to the witness stand today. Streett expects him to be on the stand for two more hours, and she has several more witnesses.

Apple and Brian Stamps, then a Pea Ridge police officer, heard a dispatch about 11:30 a.m. June 26, 2021, to be on the lookout for a Jeep fleeing from Rogers police. They spotted the Jeep at the White Oak Station in Pea Ridge, according to a probable cause affidavit.

Stamps stopped his patrol vehicle behind the Jeep, and Apple stopped his car in front of the Jeep.

Shawna Cash hit Stamps' vehicle, then sped forward and hit Apple, who got caught under the vehicle. Stamps testified he fired four shots at the Jeep after seeing Apple underneath it.

Cash was later apprehended by a Bella Vista police officer after she crashed the Jeep and fled into the woods.

Elijah Andazola, 21, of Bentonville was a passenger in the Jeep. He is charged with accomplice to capital murder and escape. Prosecutors have waived the death penalty in his case. Andazola's jury trial is scheduled to begin March 5 in Benton County Circuit Judge Robin Green's courtroom.

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