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Nearly a year after the homicide of a Hot Springs Village dispatcher, authorities say the investigation is still active.
A reward of $11,000 has been offered "for any information that would assist in the arrest and prosecution of the person or persons responsible for this murder."
It was Dec. 21, 2011, when 46-year-old Dawna Jeanne Natzke, a mother of three boys, left a Christmas party in Hot Springs Village with her boyfriend. Kevin Duck told authorities they went to their home, he went to sleep, but Natzke stayed up to watch television. The boyfriend told authorities that when he awakened at 7:30 a.m. the next day, Natzke's vehicle was gone. He said he assumed she had driven to work though she was not scheduled to return to her job that day.
Around 11:15 a.m. Dec. 22, a U.S. Forest Service employee discovered a burned vehicle in a remote area of the Ouachita National Forest near Arkansas Highway 298. The vehicle later was discovered to be Natzke's teal green 1997 Ford Escort Wagon.
On Dec. 31, 2011, about 400 area residents joined forces with local authorities and combed areas around the Ouachita National Forest searching for any signs of Natzke. A couple of hours later, a body was found partially submerged in a pond on West Main Haul Road off Arkansas 298, which was about five miles from where Natzke's torched car was discovered on Dec. 22. Three days later, authorities confirmed the body was that of Natzke and that she had been murdered.
By February 2012 authorities officially confirmed that Duck was considered a person of interest in the murder case.
"The facts and evidence garnered through the investigation reveal at this time that there are no other persons of interest, other than the last known person to see her alive," Lt. James "Corky" Martin of the Garland County Sheriff's Department said recently. "Since February 2012 investigators have been in contact with special agents from the FBI. Investigators have received assistance from the FBI in analyzing evidence, specifically electronic data, obtained during the course of the investigation. This effort by the FBI is ongoing and investigators are awaiting additional analysis to complete the technical portion of the investigation."
He added, "Once this information is received and reviewed, investigators will again meet with the prosecuting attorney to discuss the facts of the case and determine the next course of action. Investigators (from Garland County Sheriffâ€™s Department and Arkansas State Police) have followed numerous leads, but have, unfortunately, exhausted most of them."
Authorities said that Duck is a person of interest because he was the last person to see Natzke alive. Patty Hathaway, a friend of Natzke's, also told authorities that she witnessed Duck pushing her friend out the door of the Christmas party.
About two hours after Natzke's abrupt departure at the party, Hathaway said she received a text from her friend that read: "He didn't push me; I fell, and he caught me. I had taken a pain pill and was tour up."
Hathway has said that she does not believe the text message was sent by Natzke.
Hathaway noted that Natzke was an accurate speller and that she tried calling Natzke a couple times after she received the message from Natzke's phone, but no one answered. She also said that during the Christmas party, Natzke was not "acting like herself" and after pulling her friend aside to talk, Hathaway said Duck "came barging in on us."
Hathaway, who has known Natzke for 13 years, said Natzke wouldn't have left Hot Springs Village by herself because she didn't like to drive very far. She also said that Natzke usually responded to a text message by a return phone call and not by a return text.
"She just got lost in a brown paper bag ... she had no sense of direction," Hathaway said. "She only texts me if she was at work. Otherwise, she'd always, always call me."
She also said that Natzke "called me every day at approximately 10 a.m. cause she knows I don't like sleeping in." But on Dec. 22 there was no 10 a.m. telephone call from Natzke. Hathaway said she then sent text messages to Duck, asking if he'd heard anything about Natzke. He reportedly told her the police found her vehicle and that he would let her know if he found out more.
Hathaway also reportedly called one of Natzke's neighbors to check on her friend's whereabouts on Dec. 22 and later received information from HSV police. The neighbor reportedly had talked to Natzke's family, but at that time there was "no sense of alarm." It was finally at 6 a.m. Dec. 23 when concerns were raised after Natzke failed to report to her job as a dispatcher for the HSV police, where she was employed for six years. One of Natzke's sons also reported that she had not returned home and the HSV police launched an investigation and search party.
Duck was arrested on Feb. 1 when authorities in Arkansas learned that he relocated to Calcasieu Parish, La., without proper permission. He had been sentenced to three years of supervised probation in October 2009 for conviction of felony aggravated assault.
Duck's arrest record dates back to 2002 with convictions including harassing communications, third-degree domestic battery, public intoxication and DWI.
Authorities also requested Duck's probation be revoked for having an arrest warrant in Miller County, Ark., for failure to appear in court on a speeding ticket and failing to report the information to Arkansas State Police on Jan. 13, 2011; admitting to authorities that he frequents a bar in Hot Springs Village and drinking alcohol on the night of the disappearance of his girlfriend, Dawna Jeanne Natzke; failing to report to (mandatory) probation office visits on three occasions; not having a working telephone number for authorities to reach him on Jan. 4, 2011; and for leaving the state without permission from authorities.
Anyone with information about the case is encouraged to call Garland County Investigator Mike Wright at 501-622-3660 or Arkansas State Police Special Agent Dennis Morris at 501-622-3690, or the departmentâ€™s anonymous tip line at 501-622-3674.