A man who was found not guilty of murdering a beauty queen in Russellville filed a $10 million lawsuit Thursday against the city’s former chief and one of its officers, accusing them of ignoring evidence that pointed to his innocence.
Kevin Jones was acquitted of first-degree murder by a jury in 2007, two years after Nona Dirksmeyer, 19, was beaten and stabbed to death in her apartment
Gary Dunn, also named in Jones’ suit, was subsequently charged after DNA from a condom wrapper found in Dirksmeyer’s apartment by Jones’ defense team matched that of Dunn.
Dunn, who several years before was convicted of beating and raping a jogger in a Russellville park, was tried twice for killing Dirksmeyer but neither jury could reach a verdict. He was released from jail in April after prosecutors said they didn’t plan a third trial.
Jones’ lawsuit alleges that former Russellville police chief James Bacon and officer Mark Frost had enough information to pursue Dunn as a suspect but had already focused on Jones.
The suit says Dunn, who lived in the same apartment complex as Dirksmeyer, lied to investigators to support an allegedly false alibi that he was away from his apartment at the time of the killing.
During the investigation, Dunn submitted to a polygraph exam, which the suit says indicated that Dunn lied when he denied killing Dirksmeyer. The suit says “Frost successfully lobbied the polygrapher to slant his findings in Dunn’s favor,” as the investigation was already centered on Jones.
Jones’ attorney, Charles Sidney Gibson of Dermott, told The Associated Press in an interview that he obtained a DVD of the polygraph session with Dunn.
“The officers didn’t know the audio was still running” after Dunn was hooked to the machine and questioned, he said.
Gibson said Frost asked the polygrapher how Dunn did on the test. After hearing that the results indicated Dunn was deceptive, Frost suggested that an alleged heart condition Dunn said he had could have affected the result.
“I’ll say he passed,” the test administrator replied, according to the suit.
The suit cites the failure by police to find and test the condom wrapper and Bacon’s alleged failure to obtain security video from a store where Dunn told police he shopped the night of the killing.
Jones’ suit alleges Frost lied to Prosecutor David Gibbons when he told him Dunn’s alibi cleared him of the killing. Gibbons would not comment on the lawsuit.
Gibson said he believes police didn’t forward full information about Dunn to prosecutors because they also would have had to give the evidence to Jones’ defense.
Bacon and Frost didn’t immediately return phone messages from The Associated Press seeking comment. There was no indication in court filings that they have attorneys. Dunn couldn’t be located.
Frost is still on the Russellville police force. Bacon is police chief in Nixa, Mo.
The suit, which alleges Jones’ constitutional rights were violated, says Jones’ parents sold their home and business to finance a defense that cost $500,000, money that Jones is obligated to repay.
Jones asks in the suit for $5 million in compensatory damages plus another $5 million in exemplary damages because the “defendants’ actions were willful, deceitful and intentionally malicious.”
The request for damages says Jones’ “good name and reputation has suffered.”
“Indeed, he was denied admission to Arkansas Tech because of the accusations against him engendered by (the) defendants. The emotional trauma is embedded in his psyche and will be lifelong,” the suit states.
Gibson said the damage Jones has endured can’t be compensated.
“The money is not the primary object of this case,” Gibson said. “It is to make sure the law and the community does not forget Nona and what happened to Kevin. It is to put some light on how these processes can be corrupted.”
Jones now lives in Little Rock, where he is in law school, Gibson said.
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