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Oct. 18, 2017

Randy Zellers Assistant Chief of Communications

A keen eye and experience came together for Sgt. Jay Thomas, a wildlife officer with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, in Sunday’s apprehension of a robbery suspect in Brinkley who has been linked to a murder committed Sunday morning in Forrest City.

Thomas and several other wildlife officers responded to the call from Monroe County Sheriff’s Office and Arkansas State Police to help search for a subject involved in the robbery of the Family Dollar store in Brinkley. The suspect had fled in a vehicle, which was later found wrecked and unoccupied near Highway 70. The white hooded sweatshirt the subject had been wearing also had been left at the scene of the crash, making it more difficult for officers to quickly identify him. 

Sgt. Thomas drove on, establishing a perimeter near a residence across an agricultural field from the crash. As he made his way to the field, he saw a man fitting the subject’s description, covered in mud, walking across the field toward a wooded area. Thomas drove to his location, identified himself to the suspect and ordered him to lay down. Upon the subject’s compliance, Thomas was able to place him into custody without incident. The suspect, Larry Watts, was then turned over to the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office for questioning. 

Upon further investigation, police learned that the car the subject was driving belonged to 78-year-old Arnold Gwathney, who had been killed inside his home in Forrest City earlier that day.     

Watts is being held for parole violation, and charges regarding the robbery, vehicle theft and homicide are pending.