Crittenden County Sheriff’s Office confirms active investigation
A woman pulled into Turrell while driving early Sunday to avoid falling asleep at the wheel. She says the police chief sexually assaulted her after making her follow him to the police station. Now, the police chief is under criminal investigation and has been suspended pending the outcome of the probe, according to a city source.
Turrell Chief of Police Perry Jennings has been suspended pending an active investigation, a representative at the city hall confirmed on Wednesday, October 6. NEA Report asked the city hall representative if the investigation was pertaining to a sexual assault claim made against the chief over the weekend. The person on the phone answered “yes.” When we asked to speak to the mayor or if he had a comment, she said he was unavailable and did not wish to respond. When we asked for her name, she did not answer and hung up on our reporter.
On Thursday, the Crittenden County Sheriff’s Office confirmed to NEA Report that there was an open and active investigation into Jennings. They did not release the report, which is a violation of the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act.
NEA Report will not publish the name of the alleged victim, referring to her as “the woman” or “she” in this story; our reporter interviewed the woman on Wednesday. We also spoke to her boyfriend, Antonio Cash, 44, of Jonesboro, who has been with her since the events that are said to have taken place.
Early Sunday, October 3, the woman was on her way to Mississippi from Jonesboro. She was traveling to pick up her boyfriend, Antonio Cash, who had a flat and was stranded. As I-555 split off into I-55, she told this reporter she was struggling to stay awake and decided to take the exit at Turrell to stop at a gas station. She said her plan was to try to get coffee and wake up but she fell asleep in her car between 5:30 and 6 AM. Sometime after 7 AM, she was awaken to the sound of someone tapping on her passenger window. It was Turrell Police Chief Perry Jennings, according to the woman.
“I guess I fell asleep and woke up to him knocking on my passenger window,” she said. “He looked in the passenger window and saw probably two grams of marijuana. He went into the gas station and came back out and said, ‘I’m going to have to arrest you but I’m going to cut you a break and not have your vehicle towed. Follow me to the police station.’ He still had my ID and told me he had my address and not to run.”
She said Jennings never identified himself by name, but he was wearing police gear and she didn’t doubt he was an officer. She followed him to the police station of the tiny community, which has a population under 600 based on most recent census data. The police chief was in an unmarked black Impala.
“We get there and he takes me inside what looks like a police station,” she said. “He started asking me questions about my family. He was asking about a tattoo that I had on my hip, which he had no way of knowing about. He mentioned a court day on the 12th and I started crying again. He said, ‘What should we do about this weed?’ and I didn’t answer.”
The woman was in tears at the prospect of being arrested for the pot. She said she asked for a tissue and Jennings told her to go to the restroom in the building.
“I went to the bathroom and when I turned around, he was standing behind me. He wanted to see the rest of the tattoo that was below my belt. He wanted to see the rest of it. He forced his hand down my panties. He started feeling under my shirt, lifted it up, and put his mouth on my right breast. He pulled his penis out and wanted me to touch it.”
As all of this is happening, the woman said she was crying. But when he allegedly exposed his genitalia, she became much more distraught. She said she was crying to him and pleading with him that she had children. That’s when she said the assault stopped.
“I feel like the only thing that saved me was me crying for my kids,” she said.
After the events in the bathroom, she said Jennings made her put his number in her phone – only not under his real name. Instead, he told her he was “Officer Kevin.” Then, he let her go without any charges or citations.
“He made me put his number in my phone and told me to send him some dirty pictures and he would take care of me,” she said. “Not long after I left he called and I didn’t answer the phone because I was on the phone with Antonio. He text me asking if I was okay and if I was back on the highway. I was still scared at this point.”
On the other end of the phone call, her boyfriend knew something was wrong but didn’t know what. She had sent him a text message that the police were there when Jennings first approached her.
“The next thing was a phone call with her hysterically screaming, saying ‘I don’t want to tell you, I don’t want to tell you, I don’t want to talk,” Cash said. “And she hung up. I kept texting her, ‘Baby please tell me, tell me.’ She said, ‘I didn’t want to do what I had to do.’ I said, ‘baby, get here.’ I stood outside smoking a whole pack of cigarettes waiting for her.”
She was still two hours away from her destination after leaving Turrell. Cash learned what happened when she finally arrived to pick him up. She was extremely upset as she shared the traumatic story with him.
“We got in the car and I told her to give me the guy’s phone [number],” Cash said. “I called him and said is this “Officer Kevin.” He said, ‘No’ and then I said, ‘Is the officer who molested my girlfriend?’ Then he hung up.”
Cash exchanged texts with the phone number, where the officer denied knowing what he was talking about and claimed to have cut her a break.
The couple returned to Jonesboro but Cash has not been able to sit idly by since. Not only has he contacted news media, and shared a very emotional live video, but he worked to find answers himself. After looking for photos of officers in the area, he was able to show his girlfriend one that matched up to the officer who had pulled her over – and who previously she had not known the name of. Once she identified him, the couple contacted Crittenden County authorities.
“We had to go to Crittenden County Sheriff’s Office and file the report,” Cash said. “They said they couldn’t take the report on the weekend.”
But they insisted. Eventually, the couple was able to get a report filed. Through tears, she told a female detective what happened.
“I couldn’t go to work for two days. I couldn’t take care of my kids the second day after because my anxiety,” the woman told our reporter as she began to cry.
Jennings is apparently also a part-time officer with the Luxora Police Department, another small municipality in neighboring Mississippi County. An emergency town hall meeting was called for Wednesday night in Luxora, but no action was taken, an anonymous source in attendance said. The source wished to protect his or her identity for fear of reprisal.
NEA Report submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the city of Turrell via a form on the city website for his personnel records. We have received no response to our request as of this publication.
Although a criminal probe appears to be underway, it’s very little comfort to the alleged victim. She fears, with him having her personal information, that he could attempt to retaliate in some form. Making things worse were unconfirmed reports that Jennings was still seen in badge and police uniform since the incident.
“It forever changed me,” The woman said.
“Every time I need to blow my nose now, I get flash backs of that [incident]. I shouldn’t have to live with that,” she said while sobbing as her boyfriend comforted her.