Vigil held for SWAR student killed, suspect appears in court

Vigil held for SWAR student killed, suspect appears in court
Tracie Dierks, 40 (Source: Little River County Jail)
Tracie Dierks, 40 (Source: Little River County Jail)
Caitlin Caskey, 17 (Source: Caitlin Caskey's Facebook page, confirmed by Little River County authorities)
Caitlin Caskey, 17 (Source: Caitlin Caskey's Facebook page, confirmed by Little River County authorities)

LITTLE RIVER COUNTY, AR (KSLA) - Dozens crowded into an ArkLaTex football stadium Tuesday evening to remember a high school student killed over the weekend.

Caitlin Caskey, 17, of Ashdown, Arkansas, was fatally shot while attending a birthday party Saturday night.

The woman accused of killing Caskey, 40-year-old Tracie Dierks, appeared in court Tuesday for her alleged role in the shooting.

Bail was set at $100,000 for Dierks, who was held on a homicide charge. Official charges have not been filed yet.

Dierks was serving alcohol at a birthday party for her 16-year-old daughter in the 2800 block of Highway 32 over the weekend, according to investigators in court Tuesday morning.

Dierks was reportedly meeting the kids at the door with a rifle, asking the teens if their parents knew where they were and if they were going to tell the police that she was serving alcohol.

According to Little River County prosecuting attorney Bryan Chesshir, one of the teens asked Dierks if the gun was loaded and that's when the shooting happened.

"As you heard the officer testify, she turned around and racked one in the chamber taking the charging handle and pulling it back. We do not know if the safety was on, we do not know if the gun malfunctioned, we do not know any of this at this time," explained Chesshir.

Investigators also said the bullet that killed 17-year-old Caitlin Caskey went through her body and also pierced the jacket of a teen boy standing beside her.

Chesshir said there were about 26 - 32 teenagers inside when the shooting happened, and police recovered an AR-15 rifle that was believed to be used in the shooting.

Chesshir said it does not appear the shooting was intentional, but there is a good possibility there will be criminal responsibilities for it.

"You would think your child would be safe going to a 16-year-old birthday party," said Chesshir. "Alcohol and children don't mix. Guns and children don't mix. I see no reason why this gun was ever out at this party."

Foreman School District Superintendent George Kennedy said the death is a double hit on his district since Caskey's mother is an elementary teacher at one of the schools.

With arms locked, students and family members took the field at Ashdown High School in memory of Caskey. Loved ones searched for comfort, but nothing seemed to keep the tears away.

"She was like a sister to me, she was the nicest friend that I ever had," said Paiten Miller.

Miller clutched a picture of Caskey who she described as her best friend.

Loved ones are left leaning on one another to keep their composure. And while it may be a long road to closure, it's a road they are committed to travel together.

Caskey attended school in Foreman, Arkansas. Kennedy said grief counselors have been brought in this week to help students cope with the loss of their friend.

Dierks will be back in court on Tuesday, Feb. 2 and by then, official charges are expected.

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