The Newport Independent met with Third Judicial Prosecutor Henry Boyce last Thursday to discuss the murder investigation of Lt. Patrick Weatherford of the Newport Police Department and charges against Tyler Calamese and Derrick Heard.   While speculation and suspicion surrounding the case led to rumors and even media coverage of charges being previously filed against Calamese,  Boyce assured that the charges filed last Wednesday were the first since June 12.
“Tyler Calamese was never charged back when there were some news reports that he had been charged,” Boyce said. “Tyler Calamese was charged at the same time Derrick Heard was charged.”
According to court documents released to the Independent Thursday morning, including the Affidavit for Warrant of Arrest and the Information, Calamese was charged with Furnishing Deadly Weapon to Minor, a Class B felony; Breaking or Entering, a Class D felony; and Theft of Property, a Class D felony.
“He [Calamese] was originally arrested the night of the shooting based on suspicion of having committed the homicide. That was based on statements he made to police officers and other information that had been gathered. It’s not an unusual thing for a suspect to be arrested until information can be gathered and presented to the prosecuting attorney’s office, who has the sole discretion to file charges,” Boyce explained. “Investigative agencies, sheriff’s offices, police offices don’t have the constitutional power to actually charge. All they can do is hold somebody for suspicion until the prosecuting attorney determines there’s enough evidence to justify charging someone under the law. That’s what happened in Tyler Calamese’s case. He was arrested under suspicion of having committed capital murder, was afforded a first judicial appearance before Judge Griffin, the purpose for which is to determine if the person has a lawyer, if they can’t afford one, one gets appointed, and to set bond. It’s not for any sort of plea negotiations or arguments or anything else.”
The first judicial appearance was held on June 14 before Judge Barbara Griffin and Calamese was appointed lawyers and the judge determined he should be held without bond. Boyce said that testimony was offered at that hearing to support the probable cause in order to hold him. While there was some confusion about the appearance of Calamese in Third Judicial Circuit Court on June 20 before Judge Harold Erwin, Boyce maintains there was not a charge filed. “The purpose of appearing before Judge Harold Erwin on June 20th would have been to arraign him formally for any felonies with which he had been charged, except we hadn’t charged him. So there was nothing to do but order him to reappear on the next date of court, which is all the judge did that day.”
“Even though Tyler Calamese was in custody from the night of the shooting, Derrick Heard was always a suspect. He was never ruled out.” Boyce said Heard was questioned several times and eventually made a statement implicating himself. “That was the basis for our charges, at least partially, the evidence that we gathered in order to justify charges against Derrick Heard.”
According to the prosecutor, at least nine Arkansas State Police investigators from Troop F worked continuously for 14 days, along with the other assisting agencies and four of his own deputy prosecutors along with himself, putting in approximately 2,000 hours of collected time to the case. “The only investigative agencies involved have been the Sheriff’s Office, State Police, and the FBI. It was the judgement of my office as well as the consensus of all the rest of the law enforcement community that the Newport Police Department did not need to be responsible for investigating the death of one of their own.” He said he has been advised at least 30 witnesses were interviewed, some multiple times, and that he and his office were on the scene from the beginning.
At the time of the original press release from Boyce’s office, no other suspects had been identified for public knowledge. The name Derrick Heard had not been shared with the media due to the sensitive nature of the investigation and the ongoing questioning in relation to the case. “From the time that he was initially questioned, Tyler Calamese did not seem to know all the particulars of the case,” Boyce said, indicating the search for the murderer was still ongoing. Last Wednesday, the prosecutor was finally able to announce that charges had been filed and they were confident the murder suspect was in custody.
“We’ve accused Derrick Heard of breaking into a vehicle in front of the junior high school and stealing a purse from that vehicle. The owner of that vehicle called 911, reported that her vehicle had been broken into and gave a description of the person that she actually saw. Several officers were dispatched, including Patrick Weatherford, who encountered the suspect on Remmel Avenue, at the intersection of Remmel and Bowen, where the suspect ran off the road, jumped off his bike and led them on a foot chase for about a block and a half, where Lt. Weatherford cornered him in a vacant lot. After a short standoff, Heard fired and one of the shots killed Lt. Weatherford. He wasn’t dead immediately, but later died at the hospital.”
Boyce confirmed another shot was fired at Sgt. Shane Rogers after Lt. Weatherford had been fatally struck. “
“He [Heard] then fled on foot into where I would call the Newport Lake area and was actually seen by a couple of residents as well as caught on video camera by residents in that area. All that video has been processed along with the body cam of one of the officers at the scene as well as the dash cam video supplied by the City of Newport to the officers in their squad cars.”
During the investigation, the murder weapon was recovered, and while the prosecutor cannot share details of the recovery, he advised that previous searches in the Newport Lake, which were highly publicized, were done based on false statements made by Calamese in the initial interview process.
Boyce does not believe that the murder of Lt. Weatherford was premeditated, but a spontaneous act. “We have no reason to feel, to believe, that it was premeditated, except to the extent that Derrick Heard could have dropped his gun. He had to think about it before he fired, but as far as any premeditation before the break-in of the vehicle that day, no.”
Heard was charged with:
Count 1: Capital Murder Ark. Code Ann. § 5-10-101(a)(3). The said defendant in Jackson County, Arkansas, did unlawfully and feloniously on or about June 12, 2017, shoot and kill Lt. Patrick Weatherford, a Newport Police officer who was acting in his official capacity as a law enforcement officer at the time of his death. Thereby committing the offense of Capital Murder, said offense being an unclassified felony against the peace and dignity of the State of Arkansas.
Sentencing Enhancement: The above-listed offense is a subject to an additional term of imprisonment not to exceed 15 years pursuant to Ark. Code Ann. § 16-90-120 resulting from the defendant’s employment of a firearm in the commission on the above-listed offense.
Count 2: Attempted Capital Murder Ark. Code Ann. § 5-10-101(a)(3). The said defendant in Jackson County, Arkansas, did unlawfully and feloniously on or about June 12, 2017, fire a handgun at Sgt. Shane Rogers, a Newport Police Officer who was acting in his official capacity as a law enforcement officer. Thereby committing the offense of Attempted Capital Murder, said offense being a Class Y felony against the peace and dignity of the State of Arkansas.
Count 3: Breaking or Entering Ark. Code Ann. § 5-39-202. The said defendant in Jackson County, Arkansas, did unlawfully and feloniously on or about June 12, 2017, break into a vehicle belonging to another person for the purpose of committing a theft. Thereby committing the offense of Breaking or Entering, said offense being a Class D felony against the peace and dignity of the State of Arkansas.
Count 4: Theft of Property Ark. Code Ann. § 5-36-103(c)(i) & (c)(ii). The said defendant in Jackson County, did unlawfully and feloniously on or about June 12, 2017, steal a purse belonging to another person, which contained credit and debit cards. Thereby committing the offense of Theft of Property, said offense being a Class D felony against the peace and dignity of the State of Arkansas.
Count 5: Possession of Handgun by Minor Ark. Code Ann. § 5-73-119(a)(2)(B)(ii) & (b)(1)(A). The said defendant in Jackson County, did unlawfully and feloniously on or about June 12, 2017, possess a handgun, while on the real property of the Newport School District, and possessed a handgun having been previously adjudicated a delinquent for offenses that would have been felonies if committed by an adult. Thereby committing the offense of Possession of Handgun by Minor, said offense being a Class D felony against the peace and dignity of the State of Arkansas.
While the investigative phase of the case has come to an end, Boyce acknowledges the community’s desire to see justice served. He anticipates upcoming court dates and a fast trial procedure. “Their arraignment will take place next Thursday (Aug. 3). That’s when they’re apprised of the charge against them and bond is reconsidered if they want to do that. Most likely their lawyers will simply waive those formal proceedings and a trial date will be set, probably Nov. 27.”
“I’m just glad that this community was patient because this was a case where a snap decision could have been a wrong decision as far as an accusation of capital murder. Only after several weeks of deliberate police work and intensive effort were we able to determine who actually killed Lt. Weatherford. I am confident that taking that time made our case better and led to the right decision.”