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POCAHONTAS, Ark. – Some of the most unusual, gruesome, and notorious crimes in modern NEA history have originated out of Randolph County, Arkansas.
While some are still in the news as active cases, others have been lost to history. In no particular order, here are nine of the most notable criminal cases to ever involve Randolph County, Arkansas.
1. The Murder of Former State Senator Linda Collins
The most notorious case in the national press at the moment is the brutal slaying of a former Arkansas State Senator. Linda Collins was found by her family in an advanced state of decomposition on June 4, 2019. She had been dead since May 28. Her former best friend, Rebecca Lynn O’Donnell, is the only person arrested for the crime. Evasive Prosecutor Henry Boyce successfully sought to seal the case to prevent details from leaking to the public, leading to mass public speculation and conspiracy theories.
O’Donnell is awaiting trial for capital murder, abuse of a corpse, and tampering with evidence. The prosecutor’s affidavit alleges she was captured on security cameras at the home. Much of the information surrounding this detail was redacted. O’Donnell claims she is innocent.
2. Former State Senator Nick Wilson Imprisoned for Corruption
Until June of 2019, the mention of a criminal investigation involving a former state senator from Pocahontas would have evoked memories of one man: Nick Wilson. Born March 12, 1942 in Craighead County, he earned his law degree and resided in Pocahontas.
As a Democrat, he entered the State Senate in 1970. He was one of the most powerful people in the state, working for 30 years. He even had frequent conflicts with Governor Bill Clinton.
Then, in April 1999, federal prosecutors said he was the ringleader of multiple schemes which diverted $5 million from state programs including child-support enforcement, workers’ compensation for the Arkansas School Boards Association, and a program designed to provide legal counsel to children in divorce cases.
Wilson initially denied his involvement but in 2000, he pleaded guilty to racketeering and was sentenced to seventy months in federal prison. He was ordered to pay $1.176 million in restitution. He was released from prison in 2005 and as of December 2014, still owed over $400,000. He was also collecting state pension for his thirty years in the legislature.
Read more about Nick Wilson here.
3. Fraud in the Name of the Lord
Bud Suhl was a felon who was convicted (along with his mother) of running a fraudulent money-order business in California and diverting huge amounts of cash for personal use. It was front page news in Los Angeles at the time and Bud served time in prison. His name was ruined.
So, after he was released in 1979, he came to Arkansas and converted to Christianity. Then, he formed The Lord’s Ranch – a Bible-based psychiatric treatment facility located in the unincorporated community of Warm Springs.
Like many stories, this reporter had a personal interaction with the Suhl’s, in that my mother operated their cleaning services in the 1990s. Converted manufactured homes that echoed with each footstep were used to provide faith-based behavioral healthcare treatment for troubled juveniles (poor kids on Medicaid). Meanwhile in the main structure, where the Suhl’s resided, a splendorous structure adorned in expensive decor was on display.
Bud Suhl died in 2010 but his son, Ted, picked up where his dad left off – in more ways than one. Ted was and is a close ally to former governor Mike Huckabee, whose daughter served as President Trump’s most well-known press secretary to date. Under Huckabee, he enjoyed a position on the state board regulating facilities such as his. That changed under Governor Mike Beebe, when his influence began to lessen.
Then, a federal indictment topped his empire.
It alleged between 2007 and 2011, Ted funneled money to a DHS administrator by way of a West Memphis juvenile probation officer (a middleman). The men even used churches to assist in the fraud. It led to Ted being convicted in 2016 on one count of federal funds bribery, one count of interstate travel in aid of bribery, and two counts of honest services fraud.
Lucky for Ted Suhl, his friendship with Huckabee paid off. On July 29, 2019, his sentence was commuted by President Trump in a statement that called him a “pillar of his community.”
Bud Suhl’s past – Ark Times
Ted Suhl’s conviction – Ark Times
4. The Most Horrific Crimes Imaginable
A thunderstorm raged outside of the home of Carl and Lisa Elliott on July 30, 1998 in Dalton, Arkansas. A Randolph County Sheriff’s Deputy responded to a call at the home of “hollering going on.” He found nothing unusual when he approached and left without conducting a welfare check.
Next door resided Lisa’s stepmother and father. The next morning, Lisa’s stepmother woke up and tried to go outside. The door wouldn’t move. Something was blocking it from the other side. It was Lisa’s body.
Her bloody hand print was visible from where she had crawled to her father’s house for help but she never made it. Lisa was struck in the head by a tire iron 27 times. Those injuries didn’t kill her, however. She died when the killer shoved the tire iron into her throat, piercing her carotid artery and cutting off her air supply. She drowned in her own blood.
The nightmarish story begins there but it gets even worse. Lisa, Carl Allen Elliott, and their children Gregory (6) and Felicia (8) were all murdered. All except Felicia were killed at the scene. Records indicated she was taken away from the scene in a trash can and kept alive for two days while being tied up with duct tape. She was raped while in captivity before she had her throat cut.
It was five years later to the day that the bodies were found before justice was served. In July, 2003, police arrested Charles (Chad) Wayne Green and his father, Billy Dale Green, in connection to the heinous acts. Chad was a known pedophile who police believe kept the girl alive in a barrel in his garage while repeatedly sexually assaulting her. Police also thought Billy might have raped her.
The Greens were drug dealers who were involved in methamphetamine transactions with the Elliott family. Authorities believe the Elliotts owed money to the Greens.
Both Greens were convicted in 2004 with Billy getting the death penalty while Chad received a 40 year prison sentence. Because Prosecutor Henry Boyce hid evidence from the defense, Billy’s conviction was thrown out. He had to be tried again and Chad, who made a plea deal in exchange for his testimony against his father, refused to testify. It didn’t work out well for Chad.
Both ended up getting life in prison.
5. Murdered his Grandparents
It was July, 2018 when Ricky and Rita Bozwell went missing. They were reported on July 13 as missing by their daughter. On July 14, their bodies were found in their home on Sue Lane. They had been shot to death on July 10 with the woman also being stabbed.
The killer was still in the home. It was Nicholaus David Patterson, 25, the grandchild of the couple and the son of the woman that reported them missing. He claimed he killed them to take their vehicle and use their credit cards.
He was sentenced to 110 years in prison.
6. A Meth-Dealing Judge Who Murdered
Former Pocahontas Municipal Court Judge and local attorney Bob Castleman, was sentenced to 40 years in prison on Sept. 12, 2013. A Federal Judge ruled he murdered Travis Perkins, 34, in April, 2012. Castleman wasn’t charged with murder, though. He was charged with making and dealing crystal methamphetamine.
Perkins was a co-defendant in the trial who was set to testify in the case before he was shot to death in his Pocahontas apartment. Prosecutors successfully made the case that Castleman put on a wig and a trench-coat, sped from West Memphis to Pocahontas in the middle of the night, killed him, and then sped back to West Memphis – where he was seen on camera at a casino both before and after the murder.
Perkins was found with two gunshot wounds to the head.
Experts linked bullets in Perkins’ apartment to bullets found in a tree off of Castleman’s back porch. But the most incriminating factor was the testimony of Castleman’s son, Jerrod, who took a plea while implicating his father during testimony. It was a controversial decision according to this legal expert.
The goal was to bust up a local drug ring and Castleman took the fall for it but many others were caught up in the net. Among those taken in for questioning while their homes and offices were searched were then-Police Chief Chad Mulligan and District Court Judge John Throesch.
Judge Throesch’s law office was a particular focal point for investigators. Setting up hidden cameras and staking out the place, investigators found two of Throesch’s employees leaving cash under a stone in the garden. One of them was Trish Mulligan, Chad’s wife. A third figure would later replace the money with drugs.
The third figure, authorities learned, was Travis Perkins.
Throesch is still a district court judge in Randolph County as the date of this publication. He was in the news in 2018 when NEA Report learned he had pressured local police to release his wife from a ticket.
Recommended Reading: A killing in Pocahontas
7. A Police Chief Caught In the Net
Tied to the previous story was the end of the career of Chad Mulligan, the Pocahontas Police Chief who’s office was raided by federal authorities as he was being questioned. He was suspended from duty immediately as an acting chief was appointed in his place. Perhaps not coincidentally, the acting chief who replaced him was Cecil Tackett – the same man who later clashed with Judge John Throesch, who kept his job despite literal drug deals happening at his office.
Mulligan was a DARE officer for Pocahontas Middle School in the 1990s. During library class for many, this reporter included, Mulligan would teach us to resist violence and drugs.
He later resigned.
Trisha Louise Mulligan, Chad’s wife, was sentenced in 2013 to three years’ probation and ordered to pay $2,000 for possessing methamphetamine while working in 2011 for Throesch’s law firm.
8. Mob Justice in 1902
Over 100 years ago, a white Pocahontas man entered the history books for the wrong reasons.
George Cheverie lived in a houseboat on Black River with his wife and four children. The Arkansas Gazette reported on March 20, Cheverie confronted City Marshal John Norris when Norris tried to cut loose a raft on the river. Norris was beloved in the community, reports said, also being the father of four. On that day, the confrontation between the two escalated to cold-blooded murder.
Cheverie shot and killed Norris. He was arrested and charged with first degree murder but the trial was postponed until the following week because of tensions running high.
Cheverie didn’t get his trial. Instead, on the night of March 22-23, an angry mob of around “400-500” assembled at the jail. The sheriff begged the mob to let justice run its course but the mob didn’t listen and broke the doors of the jail down. They found the murderer crouched in the corner of his cell.
The mob took the man to a county bridge in the southern part of Pocahontas and the Gazette reported they gave him time to make peace with God. Then they hanged him from the bridge where his body remained hanging until 9:30 AM. Hundreds visited it.
The mob got away with their actions.
9. Ma Barker Gang’s Murderous Origins
One of the most famous criminal gangs of the Depression era was the Barker-Karpis Gang, or the “Ma Barker Gang.” Although most well known for their crimes throughout the midwest, their first murder was of a town marshal in Pocahontas, Arkansas.
Fred Barker and Alvin Karpis became friends in the Kansas State Penitentiary. Both of the criminals were arrested several times together including in 1931, when they would eventually join on a farm in Thayer, Missouri with Fred’s mom, Ma Barker.
According to the book Arkansas in Ink: Gunslingers, Ghosts, and Other Graphic Tales, November 8, 1931 was the day the group came to Pocahontas. Before daylight, Fred Barker, William Weaver and possibly Alvin Karpis were driving around Pocahontas looking for places to rob. The vehicle stopped so Weaver could use the bathroom. That’s when a night marshal, Manley Jackson, wrote down their license plate number. He was summoned to the car at gunpoint by Fred Barker.
After driving him several miles outside of town, Barker shot him numerous times in the back with a .45 pistol. His body was found the next day.
One month later, the group was involved in the murder of Sheriff C. Roy Kelly of West Plains, Missouri where they were once again thieving.
The Barker-Karpis Gang spanned 1931 to 1935 with the ruthless group committing bank robberies, kidnappings, and murders.
Alvin Karpis is only one of four ever given the title “Public Enemy No. 1” by the FBI. The other three were John Dillinger, Pretty Boy Floyd, and Baby Face Nelson.
10. The Murdering Veterinarian
John R. Kizer was born in 1872 in Randolph County to a farm family. He was actually a deputy in 1902 during the lynch mob of Cheverie. By profession, he was most well known as a veterinarian, though he later became even more well known for another one of his practices: murder.
Kizer grew up liking animals, becoming a veterinarian, his story from True Detective, April, 1957 said. There was one big exception, though: dogs. He not only hated them but he would regularly murder them. Even while working on cows or hogs, if a dog annoyed him, he would grab a needle, load it with some unknown serum, and inject the hapless dog, killing it.
It wasn’t until 1925 that Kizer reached his darkest state. His wife of eight years, Birdie Kizer, was convinced to take out a life insurance policy. Weeks later, she developed a temperature and chills. Kizer insisted he treat his wife instead of the doctors. He injected her arm using his hog needle loaded with a secret concoction. Kizer left town to treat a horse when Birdie’s daughter of a previous relationship took her to actual medical doctors. Her arm was swollen so bad, it was amputated immediately. Birdie died three weeks later.
Kizer decided to move on in 1926 when he met Martha Anderson, a married woman who owned a cattle ranch 30 miles north of Pocahontas. Her marriage presented a problem for Kizer. So, learning one night that Martha was coming to town and not going back home until the next day, Kizer loaded up his Model T Ford, took several of his veterinary tools, and drove toward the Anderson Ranch. The next day, Elmer Anderson was dead. Kizer even called the local undertaker and told him he had stayed with Anderson the night before and woke up to find him dead. Kizer’s plan was foiled when Martha refused to marry him so he returned home to look for other prospects.
The following year, when his niece became ill, Kizer volunteered to stay with her and treat her. Within a month, she was dead.
Despite the implications, Kizer stayed on the family farm and became close with Robert Riggs. He even once told Riggs he would will everything to him and asked that he return the favor. Riggs did. Soon after, he became ill. Then, he died. Kizer inherited everything.
But he wasn’t done yet. Kizer was still beloved in the clueless community and was asked by two older women to take care of them for the rest of their lives. Kizer made sure those lives were short. Both were dead of “malaria.”
Two months later, he met Rozena Bonner Arnold – a widow who was the richest woman he had encountered yet. They would eventually get married in a lavish ceremony attended by most all in the area. In September, 1932, Rozena had been convinced to take out a life insurance policy on herself. Kizer drove her to Hardy to buy some goats and when brought her back home, she was suffering from convulsions. She died.
Kizer in total murdered 11 people, collecting on 9 of them.
The story is documented in detail here, from the April, 1957 issue of True Detective.