CONWAY, Ark. (KTHV) - Two young men are now facing serious charges related to the strangulation death of an elderly woman murdered in July.
Sixteen-year-old Robert Smith III and 18-year-old Tacori Mackrel appeared before a Faulkner County Judge Tuesday, Sept. 4. The teens are facing capital murder, kidnapping and aggravated robbery charges in connection with the murder of 72-year-old Fragstein.
Fragstein was last seen alive on July 7 going inside a Conway TJ Maxx. She was found murdered in Jefferson County days later.
"It's our belief that once we've had a fair hearing in this matter, he won't be found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt," said Smith’s attorney, Ron Davis.
According to the affidavit, when Mackrel was originally questioned about the murder, he said he hadn't been to Conway and didn't know Smith. Outside of court Tuesday, Mackrel's attorney, Bill James, said they're cousins.
"It's easy to say things, it's a lot harder to prove it. We've got to see what the discovery is, go forward with our investigation and see where we are at then,” James said.
When shown photos of himself with Smith at the Conway Commons when Fragstein was kidnapped, Mackrel told investigators a white male had forced him to commit the crime, but could not give a further description.
"In this case, we are confident that we have the two people responsible for the crime in custody and charged,” Carol Crews, the prosecuting attorney for this case, said.
In open court, she told the defense a DNA analysis was available for them in discovery, alluding to the fact the state's evidence goes far beyond circumstantial.
That same affidavit says it was a gang called "the murder gang" that led police to the suspects' doorsteps.
"That information is listed in the affidavit, that these suspects' affiliation, or at least knowledge of a group with that name is part of how law enforcement was able to identifify who they were and ultimately present them with the case file that led us to file charges,” Crews said.
"There's no reason to believe he is affiliated with it. I have no information that has anything to do with it,” James said.
Though both young men facing the same charges for the same crime, they're facing very different outcomes. Mackrel could face the death penalty for the capital murder charge.
"I kind of get the idea they are going to seek the death penalty, so I'm not happy about that, but we will just have to deal with it,” James said.
Because he's a juvenile charged as an adult, Smith could face as few as 28 years behind bars. Which is likely why his attorney requested their cases be separated on the docket.
"One of the requirements of not having trials together are cross-implicating statements. My client has denied all involvement in this case,” Davis said. “I'm not certain that's the case with the other young man."
Both men pleaded not guilty and requested a bond hearing. Davis also requested Smith be moved to juvenile court and also get a mental evaluation. Both have also scheduled pretrial hearings in October.