Convicted murderer faces new charges
By KELI JACOBI News-Times Staff A long-time Arkansas Department of Correction inmate made his fi rst appearance in Union Count Circuit Court Monday to hear the state’s new charges of rape and residential burglary against him.
Leon Mask, 36, was convicted in 1993, and sentenced to life in prison without parole for the capital murder of Kenneth Paul Brown of El Dorado. He now faces charges of rape and residential burglary which allegedly occurred only weeks before Brown, 47, was found dead in his home in September 1991.
Mask spoke quietly and succinctly in response to questions from Circuit Judge Hamilton H. Singleton, who asked the defendant about the number of prior felony convictions he had.
Ta k i ng a moment to refl ect, Mask fi nally answered, "Four – all in this state."
The prior felonies enhance the sentencing range on the more serious charge of rape to include up to life imprisonment should a jury fi nd him guilty. The victim and several family members were present for the court appearance.
Singleton appointed a public defender for Mask and ordered an additional DNA sample be taken from the defendant per the prosecutor’s request.
Offi cials believe that DNA evidence from Mask provided the basis for new charges of rape nearly 15 years after the allegations fi rst surfaced and only months before the statute of limitations would have applied to the case. Emergency room personnel collected biological evidence at Medical Center of South Arkansas where the victim received treatment before reporting the alleged crime.
A Magnolia deputy prosecutor familiar with the case recently fl agged Arkansas State Crime Lab Director J.R. Howard to it after realizing the statute of limitations was about to apply. Howard notifi ed Union County Sheriff Ken Jones last week that a DNA search of profi les in their database resulted in a "hit" against Mask, who was required to submit a DNA sample after a ter a 1997 Arkansas statute required inmates convicted of violent crimes to do so.
That same statute required the establishment of a DNA data bank containing samples to assist law enforcement agencies in the identifi cation of individuals involved in on going criminal investigations.