Local man found guilty of murder
By KELI JACOBI News-Times Staff After lengthy deliberations, Union County jurors found an El Dorado man guilty of the lesser charge of seconddegree murder Tuesday, followed by a 13-year sentence in the Arkansas Department of Correction. Judge Hamilton H. Singleton presided over the two-day trial in Union County Circuit Court.
The state had sought firstdegree murder charges against Robert Oliver, 51, whom authorities believe was intoxicated when he shot his wife in the leg with a 12-gauge shotgun during a marital dispute last June. Mary Oliver later died from the gunshot wound which severed her femoral artery and caused her to bleed to death.
Deputy Prosecutor Jeff Rogers implored jurors to consider a 20-year prison term in closing arguments during the sentencing phase, the maximum allowed for second-degree murder.
"You give him the maximum of 20 years and he only serves five," said Rogers, explaining sentencing requirements and assumptions about Oliver’s early parole based on good behavior.
"You’ve heard a lot of things about how wonderful he was. I emphasize ‘he was’ ... we know and the (ministers who testified) admit he changed ... without excuse, without justification, he killed his wife," Rogers said.
Before closing, Rogers called on family members to testify about their loss.
"I miss her so much," said the victim’s sister, Betty Buffert, her voice barely audible. "We were just so close ... she’s my sister, she’s my friend. It hurts to talk about it. My brother-in-law didn’t have to kill my sister."
"I was with her the last day," testified Johnny Kilgore, the victim’s oldest brother. "It still bothers me right now ... I’m gonna miss her for the rest of my life."
A long parade of witnesses appeared on behalf of the defendant – including two grown daughters who tearfully testified that their father was "loving" and "kind."
Defense attorney Tenille Price elicited favorable testimony from several ministers who had worked with Oliver in his capacity as a deacon at various churches in the area, while former employers reiterated claims that Oliver was a capable and honest person. If he is paroled early as expected, Oliver will be released after serving 39 months in prison.
"We are delighted," said Gary McDonald who, along with Price and Bill McLean, defended Oliver at trial. "I think the verdict and the sentence are more than fair."