Man again sen­tenced to life for ’07 mur­der

The Saline Courier Weekend - - FRONT PAGE - By Sarah Perry [email protected]­ton­

A jury of eight women and five men sen­tenced a man Fri­day in Saline County Cir­cuit Court to life in prison.

Mon­trell Ven­try was 17 in

2007 when he was ar­rested in con­nec­tion with a deadly armed rob­bery. After his con­vic­tion, he re­ceived a sen­tence of life with­out the pos­si­bil­ity of pa­role, but re­cently the Arkansas Supreme Court ruled that a ju­ve­nile can­not be given such a sen­tence and his pre­vi­ous sen­tence was va­cated. After de­lib­er­at­ing for hours, the jury re­turned a life sen­tence.

With a life sen­tence, Ven­try will be el­i­gi­ble for pa­role on Aug. 5, 2037. He will be un­der su­per­vised pa­role for his en­tire life, ac­cord­ing to Charonda Rush­ing, records co­or­di­na­tor for the Arkansas Depart­ment of Correction.

Ed­die Dixon, who was robbed dur­ing the in­ci­dent, told his story dur­ing the first day of the sen­tenc­ing.

Dixon told the jury about his mem­ory of Aug. 5, 2007. He ex­plained that he and his cousin, Nick Jones Jr., were from North Lit­tle Rock, but de­cided to travel to Ben­ton so Dixon could meet a girl.

The girl di­rected the two men to an in­dus­trial area on Neely Street, but when they ar­rived, three men robbed them at gun­point. Dixon tes­ti­fied that he was or­dered to empty his pock­ets and take off his clothes.

He heard two gun­shots and even­tu­ally was able to run to the nearby Saline County Sher­iff’s Of­fice.

Jones had been shot in the face. He died about two weeks later after Ven­try turned 18 years old.

“We wouldn’t be here if (the shoot­ing) would have been 13 days later,” said Chief Deputy

Pros­e­cu­tor Re­becca Bush.

Ven­try was ar­rested the day after the in­ci­dent in White Hall while driv­ing the ve­hi­cle be­long­ing to Jones.

Dur­ing his tes­ti­mony, Ven­try ad­mit­ting to be the per­son hold­ing the gun when it went off shoot­ing Jones in the face. Ac­cord­ing to Ven­try, the gun went off when Ter­rance Rhodes, another per­son tak­ing part in the crime, handed the firearm to him.

In a video of an in­ter­view with po­lice, Ven­try told de­tec­tives Rhodes had taken ad­van­tage of him. Prior to the rob­bery, Ven­try had taken pre­scrip­tion med­i­ca­tion and drank whiskey.

“He took ad­van­tage of me be­cause he knew I was on that med­i­ca­tion,” Ven­try told po­lice. “They knew I wasn’t in my right mind.”

Dur­ing his tes­ti­mony, Ven­try apol­o­gizes count­less times to mem­bers of his fam­ily as well as the victims’ fam­ily.

“I swear I’m sorry for what I did,” Ven­try said. “I’m not a bad per­son.”

Ven­try was born in

New Or­leans, Louisiana, but was dis­placed after Hur­ri­cane Ka­t­rina. Dur­ing the chaos, Ven­try was sep­a­rated from his fam­ily who evac­u­ated to Saline County. After spend­ing about two months in Hous­ton, Texas, Ven­try was re­united to his fam­ily in Arkansas.

The jury heard from a few mem­bers of the victims’ fam­ily in­clude Jones’ mother, aunt and Dixon’s fa­ther.

“We’re here to fight for jus­tice,” said the victims’ aunt, Norma Dixon. “What would you want if you stood in our shoes?”

Rose­mary Dixon, Jones’ mother and Ed­die Dixon Jr’s aunt spoke about how the in­ci­dent has af­fect­ing her. After the death of her only child, she has been re­ceiv­ing ther­apy and has had many sleep­less nights.

“It’s been 12 years but it seems like just yes­ter­day,” she said.

She also spoke of how her son suf­fered in the hospi­tal in the weeks be­fore his death.

“Mon­trell Ven­try shot my son and left him to die,” Rose­mary Dixon said. “My son did not de­serve that.”

The state’s case was pre­sented by Prose­cut­ing At­tor­ney Chris Wal­ton and Bush. Jeff Rosen­zweig, of Lit­tle Rock, is serv­ing as Ven­try’s le­gal coun­sel.


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