Former Smackover resident charged
By KELI JACOBI News-Times Staff A former Smackover resident charged with the May shooting death of 67-year-old Jerry Cornelious French of Mount Holly made his fi rst appearance in district court on Wednesday.
Deputies with the Union County Sheriff’s Offi ce extradited Homer Ray Arnold, 44, back to Arkansas from Dallas on Monday following last week’s receipt of a governor’s warrant in the almost fourmonth-old case.
Union County Sheriff Ken Jones said he sought the warrant after Arnold refused to sign a waiver of extradition in late May.
Arnold, who was developed as a suspect when the victim’s truck turned up in Texas, faces a charge of capital murder, a class Y felony punishable by either a term of imprisonment of up to 40 years or death by lethal injection.
Chief Deputy Prosecutor Caren Harp said she received the complete case fi le We dnesday and hoped to advise the court of whether the state would be seeking the death penalty against Arnold by next week.
Arnold entered the courtroom with his hands fi rmly clasped behind his back and fi xed his gaze straight ahead as District Judge George Van Hook advised him of his rights. A public defender was assigned to represent Arnold after he fi led a certifi cate of indigence with the court.
Arnold denied he had been extradited against his own free will, insisting he signed a waiver voluntarily. "I came back on my own," he told Van Hook, a charge which Jones contested.
The investigator who fi led probable cause against Arnold on Wednesday said in court that not only was a governor’s warrant sought, it had been appealed.
Under normal circumstances, delays in extraditing a suspect would only occur if that suspect doesn’t sign a waiver. Arnold is being held in custody without bond.
Van Hook ordered the de fendant to sign another waiv er of extradition in the event a bond is eventually set in the case.
French’s residence showed evidence of burglary and forced entry into his home at 259 Bertha Williams Road in Mount Holly last May.
French, a military retiree who lived alone, was found dead in his home and ap peared to have died from a gunshot wound to the head. His truck – a 2003 white Chevrolet Avalanche – was missing for several days until investigators in Dallas located it near Arnold’s residence.