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Strong resident enters guilty plea


By KELI JACOBI News-Times Staff A 21-year-old man charged with the second-degree murder of his stepfather earlier this year entered a guilty plea to negligent homicide, a class A misdemeanor, and was sentenced to a one-year suspended imposition of sentence on Thursday in Union County Circuit Court. Circuit Judge Hamilton Singleton presided over the case.
James Thornton Brown, of Strong, admitted that he "just snapped" after he and his stepfather, Robbie Fincher, 42, engaged in an argument that escalated out of control on New Year’s Day.
Brown had earlier confessed to deputies that he beat Fincher with his fi sts and a fl ashlight, according to court documents, and that he called an ambulance when he realized his stepfather became unresponsive.
Fincher died shortly afterward at Medical Center of South Arkansas.
Fincher’s autopsy report revealed multiple blunt force injuries as the offi cial cause of death, though it made clear that his highly toxic blood alcohol level also contributed signifi cantly to his death "through suppression of normal central nervous system functioning."
Medical examiners also detected tissue damage from heart disease which may have factored in his death, according to the report.
Deputy Prosecutor Jeff Rogers said the defendant’s mother, Helen J. Fincher, wrote a letter to the Victim’s Assistance Program in March, explaining she did not see herself as a victim in her husband’s death. The letter, which became part of the case fi le, played a role in the state’s decision to agree to signifi cantly reduce charges against Brown.
"(As to) being owed any kind of restitution, wouldn’t you therefore, fi rst, have to be a victim?" she wrote. "Which, I am in no kind of way, shape or form a victim of any kind of crime or injustice ... do not contact me any further on this matter!! " Rogers explained that additional state ments of support for the defendant de scribing his actions on New Year’s Day as "far outside his normal character " also factored in his decision.
Also pleading in circuit court on Thurs day: • Latareo Utsey, 26, of Camden, to con spiracy to deliver methamphetamine and possession of marijuana, fi rst offense. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison fol lowed by a fi ve-year suspended imposi tion of sentence on count one and fi ned $100 on count two. He was assessed court costs and attorney’s fees of $150 each and ordered to surrender his driver’s license for six months.
• Andre Bell, 28, of Smackover, to delivery of a controlled substance (crack cocaine). He was sentenced to 10 years in prison followed by a 10-year suspended imposition of sentence.
He was assessed court costs and attorney’s fees of $150 each and ordered to pay $250 for a DNA sample. He was given 176 days of pre-trial incarceration credit.
• Robert Benson, 46, of Junction City, pleaded no contest to the charge of arson. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison followed by a fi ve-year suspended imposition of sen tence. He was ordered to pay restitution of $66,753.17 and assessed court costs of $150. • John A. Woods, 32, of El Do rado, pleaded true to violating the terms of his probation. He was given a 10-year suspend ed imposition of sentence and assessed court courts of $150. Woods was given probation after pleading guilty to drug charges in July 2003.

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