By Dennis McCaslin
One -hundred and forty-one days.
That is the amount of time it took a judge to sign a warrant for the arrest of a Russellville man in connection with the January 17 shooting death of 20 year-old Jared Sykes in an isolated area in the Carden Bottoms of northeastern Yell County.
A number of questions have evolved from the manslaughter warrant for Russellville businessman Scott Douthit signed by Judge Jerry Don Ramey on June 7 in what was first termed a tragic accident.
Sources, including at least one online publication, has stated the warrant was issued for homicide defined as a manslaughter. The warrant itself was reportedly issued on May 28 and Douthit is scheduled to turn himself on the charges Monday at 10 a.m.
Douthit has no discernable criminal record that can be found by a cursory search of Arkansas Court Connect records. Douthit owns a storage facility in Russellville and is the son of attorney Scott Dale Douthit or Russellville.
A male individual called Today in Fort Smith earlier Friday morning (based on Caller ID info) from that business with demands the article be taken down just moments after the original article was removed.
We also received three other harassing and threatening calls from two women and one man
The original article was taken down after an earlier call from the Yell County Sheriff office in which the caller cited "errors" resulting in its removal in order to verify the information we had.
We called the YCSO back after fielding the other calls to clarify where we had erred.
One error on our part was making the assumption that because a warrant had been issued, law enforcement would be "actively pursuing" the suspect. We were informed that Douthit was "taking care of his business" through his attorney which we later learned meant he had made a deal to surrender on June 14.
One-hundred and forty-eight days after the shooting.
Our other error was reporting the Yell County Sheriff office was in possession of an autopsy report from the State Crime Lab. The rest of the facts in the original story were correct, according to a spokesman with the YCSO.
At the time of the shooting shortly after midnight on January 17 , Sykes and two other individuals were hunting when the party was fired on by someone from several hundred feet away. Someone fired several shots at the party. Sykes was struck in the hail of gunfire and was later taken to St. Mary's Hospital in Russellville where he was pronounced dead.
Sykes body was submitted to the Arkansas State Medical Examiner for an official determination of the cause and manner of death., resulting in the elusive final autopsy report.
Seemingly, investigators first framed the shooting as a "tragic accident", but as information was developed and the situation became a criminal investigation, something went awry in the process.
As of 6 p.m. today, no warrant information --or anything pertaining to the case for that matter --has been posted to Arkansas Court Connect (https://caseinfo.arcourts.gov). Normally the turnaround time in such matters is usually less than 48 hours. (More about that later)
T0day in Fort Smith has spent most of today in an attempt to get a copy of the warrant. While we have confirmed the warrant was given to Judge Ramey on May 28 and signed by said judge on June 7, we were led on a bewildering search for said warrant.
Since warrants are public records, and since the YCSO seemingly had one in hand, we requested a copy from that department and were informed we needed to file an FOIA request.
From there, we checked with the circuit clerks in both Dardanelle and Danville with a simple request for a copy of the warrant. After being put on hold we were told by both offices that no record of the warrant existed in their system.
The second person we spoke with advised us to contact the prosecutors office for more information.
The prosecutors office said they had no warrant to release because the case had been handed over to a special prosecutor and that individual was in charge of any information being released in the matter.
We have also learned that special prosecutor is Pulaski County judge Hugh Finkelstein. Finkelstein seemingly has the autopsy report that resulted in the finding of homicide that spurred the warrant in the case.
Finklestein is a frequent special prosecutor appointed by Governor Asa Hutchinson and has even served as a Special Associate Justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court on occasion for matters.
As noted earlier, Scott Douthit is the son of Scott Dale Douthit, a prominent Russellville attorney who in 2015 was appointed by Governor Asa Hutchinson to be Chairman of the Arkansas Workers' Compensation Commission. His term on that state board just recently ended.
The senior Douthit is also a former deputy prosecuting attorney for Arkansas' Fifth Judicial District and previous attorney for the Fifth Judicial District Drug Task Force. Obviously, this is why Fifth Judicial District prosecutor Tom Tatum recused himself from the case.
On Monday, we will have booking and mugshot information on the arrest of Scott Douthit if and when he surrenders to authorities.
Sykes was laid to rest at the New Bethel Cemetery in Plainview on January 21, 2021.
One hundred and forty-five days ago.