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    Carter Wilcoxson pleads guilty to first-degree murder of Katherine Cleary

    1:30 AM, Nov 15, 2012   |    comments
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    SHERWOOD, Ark. (KTHV) - A Sherwood murder back is the headlines this week.

    A 74-year-old disappeared last year, and days later, authorities find her body. At first, police arrested two women for using her credit card but then charged a man for murder. All of a sudden, on Wednesday, that man pleaded guilty and was handed down a 50-year sentence.

    Sandra Smith said it was no doubt good to hear Carter Wilcoxson say he was guilty in court for her mother's murder. But a burning question remains for her and her family-why did he go after her mom in the first place?

    Chatting with a client, Sandra Smith "worked" another head of hair Wednesday at her Sherwood hair salon. It is work that she said keeps her on her feet after the sudden death of her mother, Katherine Cleary, last year.

    "It helps keep me sane. I have to be around people, and they understand me and know what I've been through," Smith said.

    Cleary disappeared from her Sherwood home in late August 2011. Days later, authorities found her body off Boyd Road in rural Pulaski County. The suspect charged in the murder, Carter Wilcoxson, pleaded guilty Tuesday, and Smith was in court to see it.

    "I knew all along that we had the right person but just to hear him say 'guilty', that was a lot," Smith said.

    Smith said this actually happened last minute since she initially thought Wilcoxson was going to request a mental evaluation Tuesday.

    "Then at 9 o'clock, his attorney came in and told the prosecutor that he was going to plead. We needed to get family in," Smith said.

    She was the only one who could make it and see Wilcoxson put away for 50 years with no chance for parole until he's 95. Smith hopes he takes this time to speak up and say why he did this.

    "They say sometimes you may not want to know, but there are just certain things I've thought about over the last year and half, and I just want to know. Why her?" Smith said.

    It's a plea for perhaps the ultimate closure on a life story that's more than just a murder case for Smith.

    "She square danced. She two-stepped," Smith said. "She really enjoyed life."

    Smith said she and her family are still working with prosecutors in another case tied to her mother. Shortly after her death, police arrested two women for using one of Cleary's credit cards at a Jacksonville Walmart.

    Authorities told THV 11 News that Rhonda Glassburner-Strong remains in jail in Pulaski County while Sonia Bell was able to bond out in January. Smith said she and her brother plan to meet with prosecutors on the case involving those two women next week.

    As for Wilcoxson's guilty plea this week, the charges included first-degree murder, theft by receiving, and two counts of forgery. The theft by receiving charge stems from Wilcoxson stealing Cleary's car.

    Twitter: @KTHVMax

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