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  • Writer's pictureDennis McCaslin

City prosecutor under fire for refusal to issue search warrants after dogs kill pet calf on Monday

Updated: Apr 17, 2023


A Fort Smith family was devasted when their pet Scottish Highland calf was killed on Monday and the incident has created a firestorm and backlash against City Prosecutor Rita Watkins.

The animal, a social media sensation by the name of Maple, was killed in the attack on Monday. The owners of the two dogs involved, identified as Hannah and Joshua Harmon in one of the police reports, were arrested and charged with Obstructing Governmental Operations after refusing to turn the dogs over to authorities.

A second calf was injured in the attack as well. The owners of the pure breed animals killed and injured in the attack, Tyson and Holly Simon, told officers that "Maple" had a value of $10,000 and the injured calf was worth between $2500 and $5000.

The incident occurred at just after 11 am Monday. Police arrived to a residence in the 5900-6000 block of Steep Hill Road and learned the daughters of the Simon family had "run off" the dogs that killed and injured the calves and the body of Maple was located in a pond.

The situation was complicated by the fact that the Simon's live within the city limits of Fort Smith while the Harmon's, who live across the street from where the attack occurred, are legally residents of Sebastian County. Steep Hill Road is the boundary between the city limits and county property.

You can read the entire Fort Smith Police Department incident report by clicking this link:

Download PDF • 7.20MB

Both Hannah and Joshua Harmon were arrested and booked into the Sebastian County Detention Center on Monday for Obstructing Government Operations after locking the dogs in their home--with their two children inside the house--and refusing to turn the dogs over to animal control wardens.

After officers on the scene worked out the jurisdictional situation, they called Fort Smith City Prosecutor Rita Watkins who, without knowing the identity of the owners of the dogs involved in the attack, instructed officers to write up a warrant for the seizure of the two dogs.

Two days after the killing of Maple, Holly Simon posted the following information on Instagram:

"We are devastated. It’s been over 48 hours. we are still living in this nightmare with no relief. as of the time I’m posting this. We are in still in threat/fear of imminent danger to our personal safety, and our animals.

The Fort Smith prosecuting attorney Rita Watkins wouldn’t issue the warrant the police wanted so we can rest from the trauma and try to pick up the pieces."

From police reports it appears that Watkins did an about face on the issuance of a warrant after receiving the paper work from the officers.

It appears from Watkins identifying the offending dog by name that she has at least a superficial connection with the Harmon family.

From research on social media posts from Joshua Harmon, a real estate developer and fledging social media influencer, it appears a personal/political relationship exists between Harmon and Watkins. Below is a screenshot from a social media "talk show" where Harman can be seen singing the praises of and endorsing Watkins during a failed campaign in a local Circuit Judge race.

One local source within the legal community said Thursday Watkins should have recused herself from the case as soon as she became aware of a possible conflict of interest because of the personal connection to the Harmon family. The same source said Watkins further muddied the waters when she offered to recuse herself if the Simon family agreed to submit an affidavit to allow the surviving dog to roam at large.

The black dog--identified as a pit bull--was apparently taken to vet hospital and euthanized after the fatal attack. The Harmon's retained the white dog involved although the Sebastian County Sherrif Office issued a "viscous dogs" warning to the Harmon's.

You can read the entire Sebastian County Sheriff Office incident report by clicking this link:

Download PDF • 1.93MB

Today in Fort Smith has learned the SCSO issued additional citations to the Harmon's on Friday after the white dog was spotted off a leash and roaming the Harmon property again.

This is a continuing and developing story and we will have more to report as he situation progresses.

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