A Newport man pled guilty to Murder in the 2nd Degree last Friday.
According to a press release by 3rd Judicial District Prosecutor Henry Boyce, Benjamin Collier, 21, pled to the charges stemming from an incident on Sept. 10, 2017 that resulted in the death of a 10 month old infant. According to Boyce, evidence from the State Medical Examiner’s Office indicated the infant died as a result of a closed head injury.
The Newport Police Department responded to a 911 call on Sept. 10, reporting an unresponsive infant at a Harmony Homes apartment. The infant was found unresponsive and determined deceased. The Newport Police Department developed Collier as a suspect and he later confessed to the crime. During the investigation, three different statements were made by Collier to the Newport detectives and Arkansas State Police investigators, but all were consistent that he was responsible for having dropped the child causing head injuries.
The statements along with bystanders statements and the medical examiner findings led the prosecutor’s office to rule out accidental death, so a charge of first degree murder was filed. “There were questions that arose that made us consider the possibility that this might be a lessor form of the charge,” Boyce said Monday. “We couldn’t necessary prove that he intended to kill the child.” The prosecutor eventually compromised to a second degree charge, a class A felony, which warrants 6-30 years prison sentence.
“It’s a tragedy,” Boyce said. “It’s always sad when an innocent helpless child dies because of abuse or neglect. I feel that the end result in this case was fair considering the fact that the defendant had no previous criminal history and he admitted to his wrong doing. This is a substantial sentence.”
Collier was sentenced to 25 years in the Arkansas Department of Correction by Circuit Judge Harold S. Erwin. The State was represented by Prosecuting Attorneys Henry H. Boyce and John D. Pettie.