The defense for an admitted Saline County murderer has requested a gag order for media, law enforcement and attorneys and also has filed for a continuance in her case.
Saline County Circuit Judge Gary Arnold decided to review articles from The Saline Courier before making a decision concerning a gag order on the media. Arnold, who has never invoked a gag order for media in the past, said he would announce his decision at a later time.
Pat Aydelott, attorney for 50-year-old Marissa Lynn Wright, submitted five Courier articles to Arnold and said they were "even more detailed" than information that he received from the state.
"I am concerned about the length and detail of the articles, and I am asking that the media be restricted to testimony only," Aydelott said. "The articles undermine the ability to get unbiased jurors and get a fair trial in Saline County."
Arnold responded that he would place the gag order on law enforcement and attorneys. He also granted the continuance request by Aydelott and Wright is expected to appear back in court at 9 a.m. on March 27 and March 28.
There was no mention of the results of a mental evaluation of Wright, but before, during, and after the court appearance, she was smiling and telling jokes inside the courtroom.
Wright, who facestwo counts of capital murder, has admitted to authorities that she killed Randall Craig Anderson of Mabelvale on Feb. 15, 2008, and Joe Lee "Joey" Richards Jr. of Benton on Oct. 8, 2010, and burying them in the backyard of her Traskwood home.
The Saline County Prosecuting Attorney's Office is seeking the death penalty for Wright, noting that Anderson was killed in "an especially cruel or depraved manner."
After Wright's appearance, Myra Terry, 53, of Hot Springs Village also appeared before Judge Arnold and was also granted a continuance. Terry — who faces charges of hindering apprehension, abuse of a corpse, and tampering with evidence in the death of Joey Richards — will is scheduled to return to court at 8 a.m. on March 8.
The bodies of Anderson and Joey Richards were discovered on Wright's property, 2902 W. Main St. in Traskwood, on Oct. 4. Anderson's body was discovered buried underneath a koi pond on the property and Joey Richards body was found underneath a pile of blocks near the pond.
In court documents filed by the prosecutor's office, Wright admitted to law enforcement detectives that she was involved in the murders of Anderson and Joey Richards. Jay W. Beeson Jr., 53, also faces a charge of capital murder and kidnapping for the Anderson death. A jury trial for Beeson is set to begin on May 22. He is represented by Little Rock attorney Patrick Benca.
Benton police began a missing person case for Joey Richards on Oct. 20, 2010, after his father reported that he had not returned home nor contacted any family members for 12 days. However, Joe Lee Richards Sr. said his son's truck was found 11 days before making the report. The vehicle was parked in front of the family's shop door in a spot that Joey Richards "normally did not park." The elder Richards also found his son's wallet, cell phone and laptop computer inside the vehicle.
Wright originally told detectives that Joey Richards was at her home on Oct. 8, 2010, but that he left around 1:30 a.m. the following morning. Terry also later made a similar statement to police.
Then on Nov. 16, 2010, an unidentified woman reportedly called 911 from a pay phone in Benton and said that Wright fatally shot Joey Richards in the bathroom of Wright's home. She said she didn't know what Wright did with the body, but said she knew Wright drove Joey Richards' truck back to his home in Benton. Wright then hitched a ride back to Traskwood, the woman said.
The caller also said that Wright tortured and killed another person named "Randy" in the bedroom of her home "two or three years ago." She said "there was blood everywhere" and the room had been repainted to cover it up.
The caller also mentioned the 1989 shooting death of Jeff Rhodes of Benton. Wright originally was charged with murder in that case, but the charge later was dropped and she was granted immunity from prosecution in exchange for her testimony against her then-boyfriend, Darrell Frank Pilcher.
Wright, who was known as Marissa Bragg on Nov. 29, 1989, testified in Saline County Circuit Court that Pilcher shot Rhodes during a drug deal. She said on April 3, 1989,
Pilcher drove her to the Tull Bridge in Grant County for a cocaine deal with Rhodes. She said Pilcher drove off on Rhodes' motorcycle to get money and while he was gone, she had a sexual encounter with Rhodes.
Pilcher also testified that he shot Rhodes in "a crime of passion" when he found Rhodes and Bragg involved in the sexual act. He admitted to shooting Rhodes twice in the head with a 0.38-caliber pistol, and said he and Bragg placed the body in the bed of a pickup truck. The two then drove to several locations in Saline and Pulaski counties before eventually disposing of his body at a dumpsite in the Crows community. Testimony also included statements that Pilcher attempted to cut off Rhodes' head with an ax, but didn't succeed.
At the dumpsite, one or both of the couple set fire to the body, authorities said. A passerby later found the body smoldering at the site.
Pilcher was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to life without parole. He continues to be an inmate of the Cummins Unit of the Arkansas Department of Correction.
Bragg, who later went back to her maiden name of Wright, was free.
After detectives received the 911 phone call, on the same day they interviewed two people who claimed to have been at Wright's home on Oct. 8, 2010, cooking methamphetamine in a bathroom. They said Wright and Terry also were there.
One witness said that at some point in the night, Joey Richards barged into the bathroom and started fighting. Two "pop" sounds were heard and Joey Richards was overheard to say, "She shot me."
The witness said Wright was holding a pistol and that she said, "I had to do something to get you to calm down."
Court records also said a second person witnessed Joey Richards storm into a bedroom next to the bathroom where the meth cook was taking place. The witness said Joey Richards had picked Wright up and thrown her onto the bed before he tackled the witness to the floor. The witness said when Joey Richards was on top of him, he heard a "pop" and Joey Richards rolled over on his side and said, "She shot me."
Both witnesses reportedly were told to leave the home, and when one witness couldn't find his vehicle keys, he said Wright told them to drive her Jeep. One of the witnesses recalled seeing Joey Richards sitting against a bathtub still speaking before the witness ran out of the home.
One witness reportedly told detectives that Wright and Terry later drove to his home to pick up the Jeep and said Wright said she drove Joey Richards' truck to his home in Benton. The witness said Wright said, "Nobody will ever find (Joey) Richards and that all of the people interviewed state they have no knowledge of the location of his body."
On Oct. 4, 2011, numerous law enforcement agencies — Benton and Haskell police departments, Saline County Sheriff's Office, the FBI and Arkansas State Crime Lab — served a warrant at 2902 W. Main St. in Traskwood, the home of Marissa Wright and her father, R.B. Wright. On that day, officers not only discovered the body of Joey Richards underneath a pile of blocks, they found the body of Anderson buried underneath a koi pond on the property.
Detectives also found assorted evidence, including an aged ax handle, a roll of silver duct tape, a Ruger 0.22-caliber pistol, a 0.22-caliber pistol, and a suicide note, allegedly written by Wright, in which she confessed to the murders. After her release from Saline Memorial Hospital, Wright reportedly gave full disclosure of the events that led to the deaths of Joey Richards and Anderson to Saline County Sheriff Detectives.
Wright said Joey Richards was shot after he barged into a bathroom in her home while a methamphetamine cook was taking place. She also told detectives that on Feb. 15, 2008, she called a friend to find Anderson, who fled into a field behind her home.
Wright reportedly said the friend showed up with a pistol, she later heard three shots fired, and the friend brought Anderson back inside the home at gunpoint.
Wright said that her friend then hog-tied Anderson, wrapped him in plastic and used physical force to "coerce a confession" concerning missing items, including jewelry belonging to Wright's mother. Because Anderson reportedly refused to cooperate, Wright said she and her friend left Anderson wrapped in plastic "from head to toe ... with a bag over his head," causing him to die from suffocation. Wright said that her friend then left her home with her dog and that he was arrested later in Benton during a traffic stop.
According to a Feb. 15, 2008, Benton police report, Jay W. Beeson Jr., 53, of Traskwood was stopped at 11 p.m. by Officer Michael Teague. Teague said a silver handgun was found in Beeson's right rear pocket and a criminal history search showed Beeson to be a convicted felon. Beeson was arrested that night for possession of a firearm by a certain person.
Wright did not say Beeson's name, according to the affidavit, but investigators were able to piece together evidence — including arrest records in Benton and other interviews with Wright about the murders — to serve an arrest warrant for Beeson. He was taken into custody without incident at his place of employment in Little Rock on Nov. 1, according to Saline County Sheriff's Lt. Scotty Courtney.
Authorities said in court documents that Wright later confirmed Beeson to be the friend involved in Anderson's death. Beeson, who also has a lengthy arrest record of violent crimes, faces a charge of capital murder and his trial is set for May 22.
According to the Arkansas Department of Correction, Beeson was incarcerated twice — once for a second-degree murder conviction in 1992 for the death of his former brother-in-law, Randy Jack Allen. Records note that Beeson shot Allen in a vehicle during an argument at a Sonic Drive-in in Malvern. Two other people reportedly were inside the vehicle with Allen, including Allen's 4-year-old daughter. Beeson was sentenced to 20 years, but paroled after less than three years in prison.
Beeson violated his parole and was sent back to prison in November of 1999, but was released in September of 2000.
Wright also was arrested on June 12, 2009, for reportedly pointing a handgun at a man while he was holding his son. The victim told Saline County sheriff's deputies that Wright came out of a home in the 2900 block of West Main Street in Traskwood, pointed a pistol at him and cursed at him. The victim said he walked to the porch to get his oldest son when another person pushed him and a man named Reaves Wright kicked him. The victim told police that Marissa Wright continued to point the pistol at him and that he later got away with his two children.
According to a sheriff's deputy, Marissa Wright was "very belligerent, loud and disorderly at the scene" of her arrest. "She was also extremely uncooperative during the investigation," the deputy said. The report noted that a suspect arrested for third-degree domestic battery from the incident asked not to be placed in the same cell with Wright.
Wright reportedly was charged with aggravated assault and endangering the welfare of a minor. She later pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct.