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Man charged with first-degree murder in stabbing death

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A Hot Springs man was arrested Tuesday afternoon on a felony murder charge in connection with the fatal stabbing of another man early Sunday.

Derek Layne Clark, 35, who lists a Clarkson Street address, was taken into custody in the 100 block of Clarkson shortly after 4:30 p.m. and charged with first-degree murder, punishable by up to life in prison, for the death of Donald Easley, 60, whose body was found at a residence at 110 Bayou Point.

Clark was initially being held on zero bond, but he appeared Wednesday in Garland County District Court and Judge Meredith Switzer set his bond at $500,000. Clark pleaded not guilty to the charge and a felony review hearing is set for Dec. 31. At the request of deputy public defender Morse Gist, a gag order to limit pretrial publicity was granted.

Switzer also issued a court order barring Clark from contact with two witnesses in the case and with the Bayou Point residence. Based on court records, Clark had no prior felony history.

According to the probable cause affidavit, on Sunday, shortly after 5 a.m., Garland County sheriff's deputies responded to a possible stabbing at a trailer park at 110 Bayou Point and arrived to find Easley on a bed inside a camper there apparently deceased. Garland County Coroner Stuart Smedley had also responded and pronounced the victim dead at the scene.

Sheriff's investigators executed a search warrant about two hours later, gathering evidence, and the body was sent to the state crime lab in Little Rock. The affidavit notes it was apparent Easley had numerous cuts and stabs to his head, face and upper torso which Smedley noted was the apparent cause of death.

A witness stated he had been present outside the camper at the time of the incident and saw a white male inside the camper with Easley. He said he heard Easley calling out for help and heard what sounded like "wrestling or fighting."

A few minutes later, the white male came out and got in the passenger seat of the witness' car. He asked the witness to take him away from the area, but the witness was unable to find his keys so the witness walked to the Valero on Albert Pike and flagged down sheriff's deputies. When deputies arrived back at the camper, the white male was gone.

Investigators learned a female had been at the camper earlier that evening and when interviewed she stated she had gone over to the camper and dropped off Clark, who was going to help set up the camper that had just been moved to the property.

On Tuesday, around 4:30 p.m., sheriff's Investigator Matthew Ellis was at a residence in the 100 block of Clarkson, off Whittington Avenue, looking for evidence in connection with the case and allegedly found Clark hiding inside a shed on the property and took him into custody.

After being read his rights, Clark gave a statement to investigators that Easley had hit him and he was on the floor of the camper with Easley on top of him and had picked up a knife from the floor and hit Easley in the face with it.

Clark stated he got up and hit Easley more times with the knife in the face and head. He reportedly confirmed he then went outside and got in a car and asked the witness to drive him away from the area.

Clark said he then passed out and when he woke up the witness was gone, so he walked away from the area and slept on a mountain for a while.

He said he later walked down the mountain to Blacksnake Road and back into town to "his old home place" on Clarkson Street where he "went into a shed in the backyard and stayed there."

Ellis had obtained consent from the homeowner of the residence on Clarkson to search the shed and yard and found Clark hiding in the shed.

Local on 11/08/2018

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