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story.lead_photo.caption Keyser - Photo by Submitted photo

The third of seven suspects arrested in connection with the death of a local man whose body was found dumped at Greenwood Cemetery last year pleaded guilty Monday to his part in disposing of the body and covering up the crime.

James Dean Keyser III, 28, who lists a School Street address, pleaded guilty in Garland County Circuit Court to a felony count of tampering with physical evidence, punishable by up to six years in prison, and was sentenced to five years' probation, fined $500 and ordered to pay $420 in court costs.

Keyser was charged in connection with the death of Cory Richardson, 31, whose body was found Oct. 23, 2017, next to the cemetery's main entrance at 701 Greenwood Ave.

Keyser also pleaded guilty to one felony count of possession of drug paraphernalia from an unrelated case and was also sentenced to five years' probation, to run concurrently with the tampering sentence, fined $500 and ordered to pay $295 in court costs. An additional felony count of possession of drug paraphernalia and a misdemeanor count of carrying a weapon were withdrawn.

Two accomplices, Melissa Jere Wineland, 38, and Jake Lynn Norwood, 29, both of Hot Springs, previously pleaded guilty to the same charge as Keyser. Norwood pleaded guilty July 23 and was sentenced to the maximum of six years in prison while Wineland pleaded guilty Oct. 8 and was sentenced to six years in prison with four years suspended.

Police have arrested four other suspects on various charges in connection with the death of Richardson. An autopsy determined Richardson died as the result of a gunshot entering his upper left buttocks and exiting his abdomen. There was also evidence of post-mortem injuries, including blunt force trauma to his head and a stab wound to his left thigh.

Wineland was arrested Oct. 24, 2017, the day after Richardson's body was found, Norwood was arrested Nov. 5, 2017, and Keyser was arrested Nov. 24, 2017. On Nov. 15, 2017, police arrested Steven Wood, 43, of Hot Springs, on a felony charge of first-degree murder for Richardson's death. Stephanie Shell, 22, of Malvern, was arrested at the same time and charged with hindering apprehension or prosecution, punishable by up to 20 years.

A disposition hearing for Shell is set for Monday in circuit court and Wood is set to stand trial on Feb. 12.

In early December 2017, Hot Springs police asked for the public's help in locating Donald Franklin Williams, 55, and John Patrick Walker, 43, both being sought for first-degree murder in Richardson's death. Walker was apprehended Dec. 19, 2017, in Garland County and Williams was arrested in Rockwall, Texas, on Dec. 29, 2017.

Williams, who was facing several felony charges in Texas at the time of his arrest there, is still awaiting extradition to Hot Springs. If convicted, Williams, Walker and Wood could face up to life in prison for Richardson's death.

A motion by Walker's attorney for a mental evaluation was granted on Oct. 3 and a hearing to determine if he is fit to proceed to trial is set for Feb. 5.

According to previous affidavits, Richardson was killed or severely wounded at 106 N. Patterson St., Wineland's residence, and transported by car to the cemetery. The car was located and searched the day Richardson was found and reportedly had a large amount of blood in the back seat.

Later that night, an anonymous caller informed police Norwood had told two people he helped clean a car used in a homicide. The conversation occurred almost 90 minutes before Richardson's body was found.

Wineland admitted after her arrest that she and Keyser transported the body to the cemetery from her home. She said the two then drove to Walmart, 1601 Albert Pike, where Keyser purchased cleaning products. Then they returned to the house and Keyser, along with others, began cleaning the house while Wineland and Norwood took the car to a car wash and attempted to clean up the blood in it.

According to other witnesses, on the afternoon of Oct. 22, 2017, Richardson used a counterfeit $100 bill to pay Wood for meth, which Wood got from Williams. Later that same day, Williams allegedly arrived at the residence, angry at Wood for accepting the counterfeit bill, and told Wood to locate Richardson and "deal with it," and then left.

Williams and his son-in-law, identified as Walker, later returned to the Patterson Street residence armed with handguns and pistol-whipped Richardson, knocking him to the floor. Wood allegedly joined in the attack and hit Richardson who tried to flee out a rear door in the kitchen. At that point, Williams allegedly shot in Richardson's direction.

Williams and Walker were reportedly the only ones in the kitchen with Richardson at the time and continued to beat him before a second shot was fired. The witness said Richardson was face down on the floor, yelling he had been shot as Williams and Walker exited the kitchen.

Williams allegedly began cleaning blood off his hands and the gun, then told witnesses, "y'all better clean this mess up," as he and Walker left the scene.

Local on 12/05/2018

Print Headline: Third suspect in homicide pleads guilty to tampering

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