FROM THE SEBASTIAN COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, FORT SMITH DISTRICT
[NO. 66CR-16-117] HONORABLE STEPHEN TABOR, JUDGE
Avery, for appellant.
Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Ashley Argo Priest, Ass't
Att'y Gen., for appellee.
M. GLOVER, Judge
January 2016, appellant Dionte Parks was charged in the
Sebastian County Circuit Court with one count of murder in
the first degree, two counts of aggravated robbery, and one
count of kidnapping, all Class Y felonies. In March 2016,
Parks filed a motion to transfer his case to the juvenile
division. After a hearing on the motion, the circuit court
denied the request to transfer. Parks appeals this denial,
arguing it was clearly erroneous. We affirm.
following extensive evidence was adduced at the hearing. On
January 23, 2016, two masked men entered Kaleb Watson's
home while Watson and Bailey Smith were inside. The men bound
Watson with a shoestring and began to gather items, including
Watson's cell phone and wallet. Watson escaped his
bindings and attacked one of the men, who shot him several
times. The two men then fled the scene. Watson died as a
result of his injuries.
January 24, the Fort Smith Police Department received an
anonymous tip that someone wanted to come forward with
possible information on the case. Parks and his mother,
LaRhonda Marable, came to the police station later that
afternoon. During an interview, Parks told Detective Anthony
Parkinson that brothers Shakur and James Sharp stopped by his
house on January 23, showed him a gun they had stolen earlier
that day, and told him they wanted to "hit a lick."
Parks said the Sharps asked for a bag, which Parks provided
to them, and some rope or string. Parks gave them a shoelace
from one of his shoes. Parks later saw the Sharps outside and
went to talk to them; they told him they were going to rob
Kaleb Watson, and they wanted him to knock on the front door,
run off, and then go in the back door with them. Parks said
he did not want to do it, but Shakur pulled out the gun;
although Shakur never threatened Parks, Parks decided to go
along with the plan. However, after knocking on the front
door, instead of going to Watson's back door, Parks ran
home. Parks stated he heard about eight gunshots and then saw
both Sharp brothers running from Watson's house. Parks
also stated that prior to entering Watson's house, James
had taken a compound bow out of Watson's truck and had
given it to Parks, who took it to his house and hid it in a
closet. Pursuant to a warrant, Detective Parkinson recovered
the stolen bow and the pair of running shoes from which Parks
had removed the shoelace he had given to the Sharp brothers.
Parkinson also obtained a statement from Shakur Sharp during
transport back to Fort Smith from Little Rock (where he had
fled after Watson was shot). Shakur confessed he had gone
into Watson's home; he said Parks was supposed to knock
on the front door and then come to the back door and go
inside, but Parks did not do that, so James went inside with
him; and James tied Watson up with the shoelace provided by
Parks. According to Shakur, Watson removed his restraint and
rushed Shakur; Shakur stated the gun went off and kept going
off. Shakur said James ran out the back door and he followed
him; the only items he took were Watson's wallet and cell
phone. Shakur asserted it was Parks who told him there were
guns, money, and maybe marijuana in Watson's house, and
it would be a "good place to hit a lick."
arriving in Fort Smith, Shakur gave a second statement. He
stated Parks was the one who told them about Watson's
house-that there were thousands of dollars, guns, some weed,
and a .380 handgun in the house-and it had been Parks who
took the bow out of Watson's truck and took it back to
his house and hid it. Shakur then provided the details of the
robbery and shooting for a second time.
Parkinson and Detective Williams picked Parks up from school
on January 28, 2016, on a probation violation and a
theft-of-property warrant. Parks agreed to speak with
Detective Parkinson again about the Watson case. Parks stated
that on January 23, Darrion Carter told him he wanted to
"hit a lick, " and Parks told Carter about
Watson's home. The Sharp brothers then came to his house
wanting to "hit a lick" and asking what was inside
Watson's house; Parks told them about a PlayStation 3,
guns, money, and bows and arrows. After the interview,
Detective Parkinson arrested Parks on first-degree murder,
kidnapping, aggravated robbery, and his outstanding warrants.
Detective Parkinson acknowledged that Parks came in and gave
statements that provided him with some leads in the
Troy Williams testified he obtained a statement from James
Sharp while transporting him from Little Rock back to Fort
Smith. James told him he had stolen a gun from a car earlier
in the day on January 23. He claimed Parks messaged Darrion
about hitting a lick; Darrion declined, but the Sharp
brothers went to Parks's house to discuss it. James
reiterated that Parks had taken the bow out of Watson's
truck and had taken it to his house. The remainder of his
statement matched Shakur's statement about what happened
inside Watson's house.
Tanner, the Juvenile Ombudsman, testified there were several
lock-down facilities available for juveniles, but the rooms
were not locked at night, although the capacity existed if
necessary. Tanner explained there was no guarantee Parks
would be placed in a particular facility; the Department of
Youth Services (DYS) would determine where to place him.
Tanner admitted there were five or six escapes each year, but
the juveniles were usually caught within hours; in his
opinion, DYS was the most serious delinquency disposition a
juvenile court could order, although none of the programs
were wholly successful. Factors Tanner believed were
necessary for rehabilitation to be successful included inmate
intelligence and the capacity to understand and respond to
cognitive behavior therapy; family and community support; and
the ability to acknowledge wrongdoing.
Moore, Parks's probation officer, testified Parks was
receptive to issues on which he advised him, although Parks
would stand up for himself when he felt he needed to do so.
He believed Parks's father, although a convicted felon,
was a good example for Parks and wanted to teach Parks to be
a good man.
people testified about Parks's educational struggles, his
need for mental-health services due to unresolved behavioral
and emotional problems, and his medication. While Parks had
difficulty in school, there was testimony he was receptive to
help and was a good-natured student. However, Parks had
several behavioral issues at school. Parks ...