The younger of two teens accused of kidnapping and brutally killing a Wooster woman this past summer is scheduled to undergo a mental evaluation on Christmas Day.
Robert Smith III, 16, of Pine Bluff, stood alongside his attorney, Ron Davis Jr., before Faulkner County Circuit Judge Troy Braswell Jr. on Tuesday for a pretrial hearing to update court officials on the status of a mental evaluation the defense previously requested the teen undergo.
Tacori D. Mackrell, 18, also of Pine Bluff, is also being held in connection with the murder of Elvia Fragstein. Both teens have been charged with one count each of capital murder, kidnapping, aggravated robbery and theft of property. Both entered not guilty pleas.
The defense counsel filed a motion requesting that Smith undergo an evaluation to determine if he was fit to proceed with trial, citing the boy “displayed unusual and bizarre behavior.” The request also asks that Smith receive a criminal responsibility evaluation.
The Tuesday status hearing began just after 8:35 a.m. in Courtroom 3A in the Justice Building on South German Lane.
Chief Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Carol Crews told court officials she recently received a letter from the Arkansas State Hospital stating Smith is currently scheduled to undergo a mental evaluation on Dec. 25.
In a September court appearance, Braswell read off the felony information filed against Smith to ensure he understood the allegations filed against him.
“The said defendant in Faulkner County did unlawfully and feloniously on or about July 7, 2018, acting alone or with one or more other persons, did commit or attempt to commit robbery and or kidnapping, and in the course of an in furtherance of the felony or in immediate flight therefrom, he and or accomplice caused the death of Elvia Fragstein under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life, thereby committing the offense of capital murder, said offense being a Class Y felony against the peace and dignity of the state of Arkansas,” Braswell said.
Details of the case are grisly.
It began when Eliva’s husband, Helmut Fragstein, reported his wife missing on July 8.
Helmut previously told the Log Cabin Democrat, a sister publication to The Commercial, that he was worried about his wife when she did not return home at 5 p.m. July 7 as she said she would, adding the couple is “very prompt” with their time management.
Faulkner County Sheriff’s Office investigators soon reviewed video footage from businesses within the Conway Commons shopping center after bank records showed Elvia’s final credit card transactions were made at T.J. Maxx. In reviewing footage, Elvia is seen walking to her silver 2013 Honda CR-V in the parking lot. Authorities also learned the two teens arrived at the shopping center at 2:37 p.m. on the day in question, noting “footage shows the two unusually moving from parking space to parking space in the blue PT Cruiser, eventually ending up in close proximity to T.J. Maxx.”
On July 11, Elvia’s body was located in a wooded area along Gibb Anderson Road in Jefferson County. Her car was found a short time later, completely torched, in the 300 block of North Elm Street in Pine Bluff.
“While discussing possible motives, I learned of a gang called ‘MG’ (murder gang) out of the Pine Bluff area,” FCSO investigator Andy Cook wrote in his report.
“I was told the members of the gang are typically young black males. Later on, we contacted [the Arkansas Crime Information Center] to see if any law enforcement agency had ran Mrs. Fragstein’s license plate sometime after she was last seen walking out of T.J. Maxx. A short time later, we learned an Arkansas State trooper ran her license plate on [July 7] at approximately 5 p.m. on Interstate 530 around Gravel Pit Road, which is outside of Pine Bluff, Arkansas.”
Eventually, two of the suspects’ sisters came forward regarding their suspicions after information regarding the crime began circulating online, according to the affidavit.
Faulkner County Sheriff’s Office investigators went to the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office on July 15 to question Mackrell, who was being held at the Jefferson County jail on unrelated charges, about Elvia’s murder and disappearance.
After being Mirandized, he initially denied being close friends with Smith but later changed his story once investigators showed him surveillance photos that showed the two teens together at the Conway shopping center.
“Once the photos were shown, Mr. Mackrell admitted that was him and Mr. Smith in the photos and that they were in Conway on that date,” the affidavit reads in part. “Mr. Mackrell stated Mr. Smith had picked him up from a bingo hall off Oak Street, where he had rode with his mother and attended. They proceeded to the Conway Commons in an attempt to talk to girls. Mr. Mackrell and Smith drove around the parking lot smoking marijuana. Mr. Mackrell acknowledged the evidence laid out before him up until the mentioning of the Honda CR-V. Mr. Mackrell’s demeanor changed, becoming defensive to the point he exercised his right to legal counsel. At that time, the interview was concluded.”
On July 16, Jefferson County officials executed a search warrant at Smith’s residence, where they seized a pair of shoes, blue jeans and a T-shirt that he reportedly wore while at the shopping center on the day in question. According to the affidavit, “suspected blood stains” were located on the shirt and shoes that were seized as evidence.
Online records show Mackrell asked to speak to investigators a second time on July 16. During this interview, he admitted to being at the Conway Commons shopping center and also said “an unknown Caucasian male with a .357 caliber revolver” pointed the teens in Elvia’s direction “and instructed them to take her.”
“Mr. Mackrell recalled that she got into the driver side of her vehicle and he got into the back seat,” the affidavit states. “Mr. Mackrell went on to recall that he reached around and grabbed her, pulling her into the back seat between the front seats. Mr. Smith goes into the vehicle and wrapped his belt around her legs while Mr. Mackrell wrapped his belt around her arms. Mr. Smith helped get her into the back of the vehicle and put her in the floorboard between the back seat and the front seats. Mr. Smith then jumped into the driver’s seat and took off.”
Crews, the chief deputy prosecutor in Faulkner County, was asked during a press conference if the man Mackrell described to investigators had been identified. However, at this point in the investigation, she said she could not comment on the matter.
According to the affidavit, Mackrell’s recollection of this possible other suspect was inconsistent. Mackrell said the man stayed with the two teens until they dumped Elvia’s body, and other times he said the man left and later returned.
When questioned about Elvia’s demeanor during the drive to Jefferson County, the suspect said “she was straight,” also noting she would “holler” and moan when hit. Mackrell also graphically described disposing of Elvia’s body, adding he believed by that point that she was dead.
“Mr. Mackrell was asked when she was pulled out, was she alive then? Mr Mackrell stated she was beat up and when her head hit concrete, ‘BOOM,’” the affidavit reads in part. “Mr. Mackrell stated again, her head just hit, ‘BOP.’ Mr. Mackrell stated that ‘[N]o words were said,’ noting … if your head hit the ground that hard and don’t say nothing, then yea, she probably dead before they got down the dirt road.”
The state medical examiner determined in late August that Elvia died of strangulation and blunt force trauma to the head and cervical spine.