Benton resident Sheila Blair has been in and out of Saline County courtrooms, jail and prison since the mid-1990s with offenses including 10 DWI arrests, endangering the welfare of minor, filing a false police report and other crimes.
The 48-year-old Blair even caused former state representatives to hold a press conference at the Saline County Prosecuting Attorney's Office in 2008, at which time the legislators announced plans for a proposed bill to keep felony DWI offenders exempt from early prison release. This occurred after Blair was released from an Arkansas prison because of overcrowding. She had served a little more than a year into a 10-year sentence.
On Monday, Blair — who is on parole with the Arkansas Department of Correction — was arrested by Bryant police for public intoxication and disorderly conduct.
Officer Matthew Boyd said in a report that at 12:15 a.m. on Monday, he noticed a vehicle parked in the middle of the Reynolds Road and West Commerce Drive. Boyd said the vehicle remained parked for nearly two minutes before the driver left and then failed to signal a left turn, driving in the opposite lane of traffic for 50 feet.
During the traffic stop at the Spring Road Valero gas station, Boyd said the driver "was found not to have consumed any alcoholic beverages" and was released without charges. However, Boyd reported that he noticed the passenger, Blair, was "highly intoxicated."
Boyd said Blair was "slurring her speech so bad that I could barely understand her" and that she had a "hard time holding her head up, was slumped forward in her seat and smelled strongly of the odor of intoxicants."
While speaking with the driver outside the vehicle, Boyd, looking through the back glass, said he saw Blair "pick up a beer bottle from the rear seat and consume a large amount of the contents from the beer bottle."
Sgt. Nick Ramsey, also on the scene, reportedly asked Blair what she was doing, but she did not respond.
Boyd said when Blair was assisted out of the vehicle "she was yelling about not wanting to exit the vehicle" and he noticed that she "could barely stand unassisted."
Rhonda Sharp, spokesperson for the Arkansas Department of Community Correction, told The Saline Courier today that she cannot speak on individual parolees. However, she confirmed that Blair has been on parole since November of 2010 and said the parole ends on Aug. 24, 2017.
Sharp said that "in general" when parolees are arrested, even for misdemeanor offenses, they could be subject to revocation of their parole. She said the punishment for revocation "varies from case to case" and that a parolee's history "is taken into consideration."
Since May 2, 1995, Blair not only has incurred 10 DWI convictions, she was also convicted of running a stop sign; several driving on suspended driver's license charges; disorderly conduct; criminal mischief; several drinking in public charges; careless and prohibited driving; two separate charges of leaving the scene of an accident with personal injury; endangering the welfare of a minor; assault in the third degree; refusal to submit to a blood-alcohol test; no seat belt; improper lane use; animal control; fleeing in vehicle; and failure to appear.
On Nov. 9, 2007, a Saline County jury found Blair guilty of her 10th DWI and recommended the 10-year sentence. Saline County Circuit Judge Grisham Phillips upheld the recommendation and sent Blair to prison. On Oct. 17, 2008, Prosecuting Attorney Ken Casady said Blair was released under the state emergency powers act that permits the release of numerous, nonviolent criminals because of prison crowding.
Fourteen months after her release from prison, due to an Aug. 16, 2009 arrest in Bryant and violating parolee terms, Blair was subject to a parole board hearing; She presented a plea bargain to Saline County Judge Bobby McCallister for filing a false police report in which she accused a man of rape. In that
report, it was discovered that alcohol was consumed by Blair and there was a gun involved. The victim said the two had been previously fishing, swimming, and drinking at the river. He said when they got home, Blair continued to drink, which started an argument and he eventually broke up with her. The victim said Blair then threatened to kill him, came out of his bedroom and pointed a 0.45-caliber pistol at him, "but she couldn't get the safety off." He then called 911.
Officers reported that after finding Blair hiding under a bush in the backyard of the home, she was forcibly taken into custody. While at Saline Memorial Hospital, Blair accused the boyfriend of raping her. She had told officers that her ribs were broken. However, officers asked why she didn't report the rape earlier and she claimed to have told an X-ray technician. The report said the X-ray technician denied Blair making any accusations of rape, an exchange that reportedly was witnessed by an on-duty registered nurse.
During the parole hearing Blair claimed that she regularly undergoes drug tests with no positive results and has had random home visits. When asked why she told a nurse at Saline Memorial on Aug. 16 that she drinks an average of two beers a day and that she had drunk four beers before the incident, Blair said, "I thought they were talking about (the boyfriend). I was confused and upset."
Undercover Benton officers also reported during the parole hearing that they witnessed Blair being heavily intoxicated in the parking lot of Touchdown Sally's (Benton) grand opening. Officers told the Courier previously that Blair was extremely intoxicated, stumbled to a vehicle, but could not open the door with the vehicle key. After realizing the men were watching her, Blair then asked for help and after the doors were unlocked, she allegedly went to the passenger's side and passed out in the passenger seat.
During the opening statements of the parole board hearing, Blair denied drinking since her parole in 2008, but admitted a few minutes later to drinking at Touchdown Sally's grand opening in 2009.
"I am an alcoholic and in recovery," Blair said. "I had a couple of beers with friends, but I shouldn't have gone in and tried to act like normal people. I slipped up and made a mistake."
ADC Hearing Examiner James L. “Jim” Williams II told Blair she would head back to prison. Williams explained to Blair that if she completed an intensive drug and alcohol treatment program in the ADC, she would become eligible for parole within six months of sentence.
At that point McCallister sentenced Blair to six years in the ADC. Because of the plea negotiations, prosecutors dropped an aggravated assault charge against Blair.
Blair is scheduled to appear in Benton District Court today in conjunction with the public intoxication and disorderly conduct charges. A bond could be set at that time.
The Saline Courier will continue to report this case as it develops.