HUB TELEGRAM – Investigators focused on Arron Lewis after a real estate agent disappeared while showing a home in a rural area outside Little Rock. Emails and phone records, they said, showed Lewis and his wife set up a viewing for a property with Beverly Carter, whose body was found days later in a shallow grave.
But key evidence has been barred from Lewis’ trial, which began Tuesday in Little Rock.
Citing missteps by law enforcement, a judge blocked much of the information gleaned from Lewis’ police interviews and material found during searches of his home and vehicle — including pieces of Carter’s hair.
Lewis’ attorney, Bill James, has said the judge’s ruling would help him “put on the best possible defense” for Lewis, who has pleaded not guilty to capital murder and kidnapping. On Monday, James said he expected to be able to find impartial jurors despite extensive media coverage of the case.
“I need people who are going to be honest and judge the case based on what’s proven and make a fair decision. I think we can find that,” James said.
Jury selection wrapped up in the high-profile case Tuesday afternoon.
Carter, 49, disappeared in September 2014 after telling her husband she was going to show a house in a rural area of Scott, an area about 15 miles east of Little Rock. Her body was found days later in a shallow grave at a concrete plant where Lewis had previously worked.
Police began looking at Lewis and his estranged wife, Crystal Lowery, after phone and email records tied an account registered to Lowery to a phone number used to call Carter to arrange the house showing.
Lowery is serving a 30-year prison sentence after pleading guilty in July to first-degree murder and kidnapping in Carter’s death. Prosecutors will be allowed to use her testimony about the alleged plan to target Carter, including plans to find a married real estate agent so they had someone to pay ransom.
Lewis had a car wreck while detectives had him under surveillance as a person of interest. They took his phone as evidence and later searched his wrecked car and the home he shared with Lowery. Lewis ran from the hospital after the car wreck but was later captured and arrested by Little Rock police.
Most of the information investigators gathered while interviewing Lewis was excluded from trial under a ruling in December by Pulaski County Circuit Court Judge Herbert Wright. Lewis had invoked his right to have an attorney present while being transported by Little Rock police, but no attorney was provided to him during the interrogation with the Pulaski County sheriff’s investigators, the judge said.