Man to re­ceive new sen­tence in cap­i­tal mur­der case

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

More than 10 years after be­ing con­victed of ag­gra­vated rob­bery and cap­i­tal mur­der, a man is once again in Saline County Cir­cuit Court to re­ceive a new sen­tence.

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 a life sen­tence with­out pa­role el­i­gi­bil­ity and his pre­vi­ous sen­tence was va­cated.

After hear­ing ev­i­dence from both sides in the case, the jury of eight women and five men will have the op­tion to sen­tence Ven­try to 10 to 40 years or a life sen­tence with pa­role el­i­gi­bil­ity. If he re­ceives a life sen­tence once again, Ven­try could be el­i­gi­ble for pa­role in 18 years, said Chief Deputy Pros­e­cu­tor Re­becca Bush who is rep­re­sent­ing the state’s case with Saline County Pros­e­cu­tor Chris Wal­ton.

“That is not a ticket to get out. That is a ticket to go be­fore the Pa­role Board,” said Jeff Rosen­zweig who is serv­ing as Ven­try’s le­gal coun­sel.

After sev­eral hours of ques­tion­ing, a jury was se­lected. Mem­bers of the jury heard open­ing ar­gu­ments from both sides, as well as tes­ti­mony from law en­force­ment of­fi­cers and the vic­tim.

The first wit­ness to be called was Ed­die Dixon, who was robbed dur­ing the in­ci­dent.

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 visit a girl he had met on so­cial me­dia.

At ap­prox­i­mately 9:30 p.m., the girl di­rected the two men to an in­dus­trial area on Neely Street. When they ar­rived, the girl and three men, in­clud­ing Ven­try, robbed the two victims 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.

Bush told the jury dur­ing her open­ing ar­gu­ments that Jones had been shot “be­tween the eyes” by Ven­try. He died about two weeks later after Ven­try turned 18 years old, she said.

Jones’ death was “very painful and hard to watch for his fam­ily,”

Bush added.

At the time of death,

Jones as mar­ried with two young sons.

When asked about his re­la­tion­ship with his cousin, Dixon said they were like brothers and they saw each other ev­ery­day.

Be­cause of this ex­pe­ri­ence, Dixon said it is very hard for him to trust peo­ple.

“You never know. It might hap­pen again,” he said.

Lt. Don Robert­son, with the Ben­ton Po­lice Depart­ment, tes­ti­fied that he was called to the scene when a woman re­ported that a man, Nick Jones, whose face was cov­ered in blood, was on her front porch. Jones at­tempted to com­mu­ni­cate

with po­lice, but was un­able to be­cause of his in­juries, Robert­son said.

The day after the rob­bery, Ven­try was lo­cated in White Hall driv­ing the ve­hi­cle be­long­ing to Jones.

Phillip Peck­ham, who worked for the White Hall Po­lice Depart­ment, ex­plainwd that he stopped the ve­hi­cle after re­ceiv­ing re­ports of an er­ratic driver. Dur­ing the traf­fic stop, Ven­try ran from po­lice, but was later ap­pre­hended.

Peck­ham tes­ti­fied that dur­ing his ar­rest, Ven­try was rap­ping about be­ing “a blood” “sol­dier,” “blow­ing some­body’s head off” and “go­ing to burn in Hell.”

He noted that he took Ven­try’s rap­ping to be him “brag­ging about be­ing a gang mem­ber.”

Peck­ham would later

lo­cate an open beer, mar­i­juana and the gun used to shoot Jones in­side the ve­hi­cle, he told the jury.

The fi­nal wit­ness of the day was De­tec­tive Chris Shaw, who in­ves­ti­gated the in­ci­dent while work­ing for the Ben­ton Po­lice Depart­ment.

As part of his tes­ti­mony, the jury watched a video record­ing of Shaw’s in­ter­view with Ven­try. Ven­try’s mother can also be seen on the record­ing.

Dur­ing the in­ter­view, Ven­try asked the de­tec­tive if his life was over.

At the time, Ven­try had com­pleted his GED and was work­ing two jobs, he told Shaw.

“You had ev­ery­thing go­ing right,” Shaw said in the video.

At the be­gin­ning of the

in­ter­view, Ven­try told po­lice he was at­tacked by two peo­ple, but he would even­tu­ally come clean about par­tic­i­pat­ing in the rob­bery.

Be­cause of tech­ni­cal dif­fi­cul­ties, the jury was un­able to see the en­tire video be­fore the end of the day.

After re­cess­ing at ap­prox­i­mately 5 p.m., the trial re­sumed at 9 a.m. today be­fore Saline County Cir­cuit Judge Gary Arnold.

Ven­try is ex­pected to tes­tify dur­ing the trial. Rosen­zweig told the jury that Ven­try will tell them what he did.

His at­tor­ney ex­plained that the “gun went off in (Ven­try’s ) hand” but that “he didn’t in­tend to kill.”

“That is an im­por­tant con­sid­er­a­tion for you to make,” Rosen­zweig said.

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