Fugitive murder suspect now in custody
By KELI JACOBI News-T imes Staff A fugitive murder suspect who allegedly shot his partner to death during a 2001 botched robbery at Joe’s Grocery near El Dorado, is in police custody in Newport News, Va., according to Union County Sheriff Ken Jones.
Malone D. Burns, 35, was arrested Tuesday by authorities in Newport News following a traffi c stop, and is scheduled for an extradition hearing today, said Jones.
Burns disappeared on March 2, 2001, following a shoot-out involving his partner, James Clifton Frank, 30, and grocery store owner Joe Robertson. Frank died from a massive wound to the chest, apparently infl icted by Burns’ sawed-off shotgun during the shoot-out, but Robertson Burns survived gunshot wounds to his side and leg.
The pre-dawn shooting occurred in the parking lot of Robertson’s store, located near Industrial Park Road on U.S. 82, just as Robertson arrived to open for business.
Robertson later told investigators he foiled the robbery by leading the suspects to believe he was reaching into his vehicle to get some cash, but instead retrieved a .357-caliber Mag num.
Authorities took Burns into cus tody Tuesday when he provided a bogus name to the offi cer initiating the traffi c stop. The suspect was pos itively identifi ed by a match of his fi ngerprints with those on fi le with the FBI database and a photo pro vided by the Union County Sheriff’s Offi ce, according to Jones. If Burns declines extradition to Arkansas to face charges of capital murder, a governor’s warrant from Virginia will be sought, said Jones.
Once returned to the state, Burns will face additional felony charges for attempted capital murder and attempted aggravated robbery, added Jones.
Burns, who has eluded authorities for more than fi ve years, fl ed the scene in 2001 in a stolen Pontiac which was later found abandoned on Industrial Road.
At the time of the incident, he was on parole from the Arkansas Department of Correction for aggravated robbery, and allegedly employed similar tactics at Joe’s Grocery as he used in the prior felony offense.
Burns and Frank were also alleged to have some connection to a March 2001 drug bust in Camden by the Drug Task Force just days before the attempted robbery in Union County. In the days following the Joe’s Gro cery incident, Burns’ trail quickly grew cold after offi cials scoured his hometown of Little Rock. Still, in vestigators held out hope that Burns would eventually be found, said Jones, adding, "All it takes is one small screw-up. That’s what usually gets them."