Richard Conte (Photo from Nevada Dept. of Correction)
UNDATED (Log Cabin Democrat) -- The death penalty is off the table for a man accused of the 2002 murders of Carter Elliott, 48, and Timothy Robertson, 25.
At a pre-trial hearing held Thursday, an attorney for Richard Conte, 61, was informed by representatives for the prosecuting attorney's office that they would not be seeking the death penalty based on the facts in the case.
According to Cody Hiland, prosecuting attorney for the 20th Judicial District, while the facts in the case are strong, they do not meet the criteria needed to have the death penalty be an option for punishment in this case.
"The facts in every case are different," he explained. "In order to seek the death penalty in Arkansas, we have to meet certain criteria under the law as it relates to aggravating factors. In this case, in evaluating facts as it relates to the law, we didn't feel like the death penalty was an available option."
Conte was extradited to Faulkner County in October to enter a plea for the murder charges. Elliot's daughter, as well as his son and ex-wife, have standing no contact orders against Conte to keep him from making any contact with them. Elliot's daughter, Ashley Waldron said her family is fine with the decision to not seek the death penalty in this case.
"Cody and his team are doing a great job and if taking the option of having the death penalty off the table is what is best, we are alright with that," she said. "As long as Conte remains in jail and away from us, we are fine with whatever decision the prosecutor's office made."
Waldron said that her family will not have to seek a continuation of the no contact order until February and will do so until this matter is resolved.
"We have to do anything we can to prevent him from having any type of contact with my family," she said. "This really is to keep him from trying to make contact with my kids or my husband, but it is something we feel is necessary."
Conte served nine years of a 15-year sentence at a correctional facility in Nevada for kidnapping Waldron's mother, Lark Gathright-Elliott about a month after the murders.
According to investigators, Conte drove to Salt Lake City, drugged her and placed her and her clothing in the back of his truck. He took her to his Clear Creek home in Douglas County, Nev., where she was found and freed two days after being kidnapped.
He was also the Conway Police Department's prime suspect in the murders of Elliott and Robertson. Elliott owned industrial solvent manufacturer Detco and was a mentor to Robertson. The pair were working together to build a deck for Elliott's home in the Shady Valley subdivision in west Conway when they were killed on May 18, 2002.
In 2002, investigators stated that Conte was not arrested at the time of the murders because evidence against him was circumstantial.
Among evidence that was found to link Conte to the murders was copies of downloaded Conway maps and the scanner frequencies for local police agencies, found on his computer.
Hiland said a "voluminous" amount of evidence was released in the discovery phase of the pre-trial held on Thursday and commended investigators with the Conway Police Department for their efforts in the case.
"The Conway Police Department did a good job of investigating this case, they were very thorough," he said. "Due to their diligence, there is a huge amount of discovery items that have been turned over to the defense counsel."
(Copyright 2011 Log Cabin Democrat)