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Drexler v. State

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division IV

February 7, 2018

HUNTER JOHN DREXLER APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF ARKANSAS APPELLEE

         APPEAL FROM THE FAULKNER COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 23CR-15-569] HONORABLE TROY B. BRASWELL, JR., JUDGE

          Benca & Benca, by: Patrick J. Benca, for appellant.

          Leslie Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Brooke Jackson Gasaway, Ass't Att'y Gen., for appellee.

          PHILLIP T. WHITEAKER, Judge

         Hunter Drexler appeals from the order of the Faulkner County Circuit Court denying his motion to transfer his case to the juvenile division of circuit court. On appeal, he argues that the circuit court erred in (1) its evaluation of the statutory factors required to be considered in a juvenile-transfer case and (2) refusing to set a reasonable bond. We affirm.

         I. Background

         Robert and Patricia Cogdell were murdered in July 2015. After the murders, law enforcement quickly developed Drexler, Conner Atchley, Anastasia Roberts, and Justin Staton[1] as suspects, theorizing that Drexler and Staton had met in juvenile detention where they conceived a plan to murder the Cogdells; steal their car, money, and credit cards; and run away. They enlisted the help of Atchley and Roberts to execute the plan.

         On the day of the murders, Drexler removed several guns from his father's collection, cut off the ankle monitor he was required to wear as part of his juvenile probation, and met Staton, Atchley, and Roberts. The group went to the Cogdells' house, where they waited for Staton's grandparents to come home. Staton and Drexler shot Mr. Cogdell, who sustained six gunshot wounds to his torso and head; Mrs. Cogdell was shot seven times while she sat in the front seat of her car in the couple's garage. Drexler rolled Mr. Cogdell's body in a carpet, and he and Staton used a tractor to dump the Cogdells' bodies behind a barbed-wire fence on their Faulkner County property. Staton went home following the shootings, where he was arrested later that evening. Drexler, Atchley, and Roberts fled to Texas, where they were apprehended the next day. At the time of the murders, Drexler was less than two months from his eighteenth birthday.

         II. Procedural History

         Drexler was charged as an adult in the Faulkner County Circuit Court with two counts of capital murder, two counts of aggravated robbery, two counts of theft of property, and two counts of abuse of a corpse. See Ark. Code Ann. § 9-27-318(c)(1) (Repl. 2009) ("A prosecuting attorney has the discretion to charge a juvenile, sixteen years of age or older, in the juvenile or criminal division of circuit court if the juvenile has allegedly engaged in conduct that, if committed by an adult, would be a felony."). Drexler filed a motion to transfer his case to the juvenile division of circuit court on September 12, 2016, two days before his nineteenth birthday. The circuit court held a multiday hearing on Drexler's motion pursuant to Arkansas Code Annotated section 9-27-318(e) and subsequently entered an order denying Drexler's juvenile-transfer motion. Drexler filed a timely notice of appeal and now presents the arguments set out above.

         III. Standard of Review

         In juvenile-transfer proceedings, the court shall order the case transferred to another division of circuit court only upon a finding by clear and convincing evidence that the case should be transferred. Ark. Code Ann. § 9-27-318(h)(2). Clear and convincing evidence is the degree of proof that will produce in the trier of fact a firm conviction as to the allegation sought to be established. Neal v. State, 2010 Ark.App. 744, at 6, 379 S.W.3d 634, 637.

         Pursuant to Arkansas Code Annotated section 9-27-318(g), the circuit court shall consider all of the following factors in a transfer hearing:

(1) The seriousness of the alleged offense and whether the protection of society requires prosecution in the criminal ...

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