MAGNOLIA, Ark. (KTHV) - Four homicides in five days have rocked the small city of Magnolia in southwestern Arkansas. The seat of Columbia County has a Norman Rockwell feel being two hours from the nearest big city, but the four deaths have a big city feel and the people on edge and the police nearly overwhelmed.
“It's difficult to imagine that here,” said Magnolia police chief Todd Drew, one month into the job as head of the city’s force. “It's taken a toll on all of us. It's a lot of stress and not a lot of sleep.”
There hasn’t been a homicide of any kind in the city since 2012, but that all changed Monday, Nov. 19, with the midday shooting of Jarious Shaw on Norma Street. Murder warrants went out for Stephen Smith.
Six hours later Damarras Henderson was found shot at the Magnuson Hotel on Main St. It wasn't connected to the earlier shooting, but the suspect in that case also got away until Tuesday night. That's when officers and deputies tracked down Roderick McDaniel. They say when they went to serve a warrant for the Henderson murder, he tried to ram their police car and then during the arrest, he ended up shot in the chest by a deputy. McDaniel later died at the hospital.
On Friday, Stephen Smith's grandfather, Nathaniel Smith, was found dead in his home on Jeanette Street. Neighbors say the home had been shot up earlier in the week but they never heard any gunshots Thanksgiving night.
Saturday saw a break in the first case when U.S. Marshalls ran down the Stephen Smith in Louisiana. He arrived back in the Columbia County jail Nov. 26th and heard the prosecutors murder charges at a court appearance Tuesday evening.
The connections between the families and the violent outburst have neighbors worried.
“I’m scared and wondering what's going to happen next,” said Carol Wonzo, who lives across the street from where Nathaniel Smith was shot. The homicide scene has cleared there, but she woke Tuesday to find investigators looking into a fire at a dilapidated house right next door.
With everyone speculating and rumors spreading, police officials are asking for time.
“We’re trying to assure the public that we are looking at every angle in the investigation and our goal is to do what's right,” chief Dew said.
The deputy who shot and killed McDaniel is on administrative leave while Arkansas State Police investigate. Chief Dew also called in state police after the Nathaniel Smith shooting. A suspect remains at large in that case.
“I just hope everything turns out alright and all this violence just stops because it's not solving anything,” said Wonzo.