LAFAYETTE CO., AR (KSLA) - The Oklahoma man charged with second-degree murder in the death of Lafayette County Chief Deputy Pete Richardson has been ordered held without bond.
"Under the circumstances, I think it's appropriate," says Miller County Prosecuting Attorney Carlton Jones.
Jones says Richardson was giving 28-year-old Michael Ackart a ride to a homeless shelter in Texarkana on Monday when Ackart grabbed the wheel and caused the fatal wreck.
"Just an absolutely unfortunate circumstance," Jones said following Ackart's first court appearance on Tuesday, "Chief Deputy Pete Richardson was a fine law enforcement officer who had served Lafayette County and its citizens for 19 years, trying to be a good guy and was trying to, you know, do the right thing and help this gentleman out that turned into a tragic incident that caused the deputy, chief deputy, his life and led to the charges against Mr. Ackart."
It happened around 2:30 Monday afternoon in Hwy 82, about 4 miles west of Lewisville.
"Initially, it appears Mr. Ackart, while being transported to Texarkana, grabbed the steering wheel of the moving vehicle and forced the vehicle into the lanes of oncoming traffic on Hwy. 82," says Jones. As a result, officials say Richardson's department-issued Dodge Nitro collided with another passenger car and an 18-wheeler.
Ackart was not under arrest or in custody at the time of the crash. "No, as a matter of fact, the gentleman was wanting a ride to Texarkana and the deputy was on his way to Texarkana, so he just said, 'Okay, I'll take him, since I'm headed that way.'" Jones says Ackart had reportedly been loitering around Stamps, AR before Richardson offered him a ride.
According to court documents, Ackart told the responding ambulance personnel that he grabbed the wheel.
Ackart was taken to Wadley Regional Medical Center in Texarkana before being taken to the Miller County Jail.
Jones says second degree murder is a Class A felony in the state of Arkansas. "It is based on knowing conduct. We're going to evaluate the evidence further and determine exactly if this the appropriate charge, or something higher would be."
In Arkansas, a Class A felony brings not less than 6 years and no more than 30 years in the department of corrections, fine not to exceed $15,000.
Ackart, who has been assigned a court-appointed attorney, is due back in court for arraignment on April 4.
Richardson was a 19-year veteran of the sheriff's office and a candidate for sheriff in an upcoming election. Current Lafayette County Sheriff Victor Rose says he was not planning on running for re-election, telling KSLA News 12 it was Richardson's time to shine.