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Juvenile Charged as Adults in Attempted Murder Case Following Manhunt


 Three Saline County juveniles are charged with attempted capital murder allegedly stabbing a Drew County man carjacking his pickup truck.

According to Drew County Sheriff Mark Gober, on Thursday March 15th, at approximately 2:10 pm, the Drew County Sheriff’s Department received a call from Bobby Strickland stating that he had come upon a vehicle on Deal Road in the Ladelle community occupied by three juveniles that had run out of gas. Strickland was suspicious of the situation and asked that a deputy come check on the teens. In the time between the phone call and when the deputy arrived at the scene, the juveniles had overpowered Strickland, stabbing him nine times in the neck, legs and torso, and stole his truck, which contained Strickland’s gun.

When the deputy arrived, he saw Strickland’s truck pulling off of Deal Road onto Highway 425 South headed towards Lacey. The deputy also saw a car on Deal Road and Strickland lying on the ground. The deputy called for assistance and an ambulance. Meanwhile, as the suspects were trying to flee the area and attempt to turn off the highway, they lost control of the vehicle and crashed the truck into a power pole and then fled the scene on foot in an area outside of the Lacey community. A bystander who had seen the accident was able to provide a second deputy, who arrived seconds later, with the suspects’ direction of travel.

 A manhunt for the three juveniles, who were considered armed and dangerous, began. The three were later identified as Blake Smith, 17; Christopher Darden, 15; and Haley Thompson, 15, all of Saline County. Law enforcements officers from the Drew County Sheriff’s Department, Monticello Police Department, Ashley County Sheriff’s Department, Arkansas State Police, along with Arkansas Game and Fish officials, Department of Emergency Management, a State Police helicopter, and tracking dogs from the Arkansas Department of Corrections searched area for the suspects, Gober said.

Approximately an hour after the search began, authorities were able to locate and arrest Christopher Darden and Haley Thompson without incident in a wooded area behind the Lacey store.  Smith, who was believed to still have the gun, was still missing.

Dispatchers and Sheriff Gober had been in contact with Smith’s probation officer who was able to provide the boy’s cell phone number. Gober made contact with Smith by phone and talked him into surrendering. Smith ended up being only 300-400 yards away from where the other two suspects were arrested. He surrendered to Sheriff Gober and Monticello Police Chief Eddy Deaton shortly after 7 p.m.

All three juveniles were transported to the Drew County Detention Facility where they awaited their first appearance hearings the following morning. Darden, Thompson, and Smith were formally charged as adults with attempted capital murder, aggravated robbery, theft of property, and theft by deceiving. Circuit Judge Kenny Johnson assigned each juvenile with a $750,000 bond. They are still in custody at this time.

Following the conclusion of the manhunt Thursday night, Sheriff Gober said “This was an unfortunate incident but I really want to thank everyone who came out to help up search. The tremendous response by all the surrounding law enforcement agencies helped bring the situation to a quick end.”

Sheriff Gober spoke with the victim’s family members Friday morning who told the Sheriff that Strickland was doing good following surgery the night before.

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