Prosecutors look at defense evidence in murder case
Bates’ hearing reset in hot-tub death
BENTONVILLE — Attorneys for a Bentonville murder suspect have turned over evidence to prosecutors they say may help their client.
James Bates, 31, is charged with first-degree murder and tampering with physical evidence. He pleaded not guilty to the charges and is free on $ 350,000 bond.
Bates is accused of killing Victor Collins, 47, of Centerton on Nov. 22, 2015. Bates also is accused of tampering with evidence by using a garden hose to wash away blood from his hot tub and patio area, according to court documents.
Collins was found dead in a hot tub at Bates’ home. Collins died from strangulation with drowning as a secondary cause, according to the court documents.
Bates was scheduled to appear in court Thursday afternoon, but prosecutors filed a motion to reschedule the hearing. The motion claims the new evidence is being investigated, so another hearing date is necessary. Benton County Circuit Judge Brad Karren scheduled a new hearing for 10:30 a.m. Sept. 13.
Court documents didn’t specify what documents the defense gave prosecutors.
“It’s inappropriate to talk about,” Benton County Prosecutor Nathan Smith said. “It is still part of the discovery process.”
Kathleen Zellner, one of Bates’ attorneys, couldn’t be reached for comment.
Bates told police three men — Collins, Owen McDonald and Sean Henry — went to his house Nov. 21 to watch football. Henry left at 11 p.m., and the other three went to the outdoor hot tub where they drank beer and vodka, according to an affidavit.
Bates told police he went to bed at 1 a.m. and called 911 at 9:30 a.m. when he found Collins’ body, according to the affidavit. Bates told police Mc- Donald and Collins were in the hot tub when he went to bed.
McDonald told police he left at 12:30 a.m. to walk home, but a person picked him up and gave him a ride, according to the affidavit. Dispatch records show a 911 call from a nurse who spotted a man near Southwest Cabernet and Southwest Elm Manor and because of the cold went back to pick him up.
Police and medics found Collins, who appeared to have a black eye, dead in the hot tub, according to a probable cause affidavit. The rim of the hot tub and concrete patio appeared to have been sprayed recently with water.
Police found Collins’ broken prescription eyeglasses, his wedding ring, a broken shot glass and several jet head covers when they drained the hot tub.
Bates had bruises and scratches on his shoulder, back and stomach, according to court documents.
The case received national attention earlier this year after prosecutors attempted to obtain information from an Amazon Echo device in Bates’ home. Amazon turned over the information after Bates and his attorneys consented.