Prosecutors say they need more time to gather and review evidence before making a decision to file formal charges against two teens accused of abducting and killing a Wooster woman, then dumping her body in Jefferson County.
Tacori Mackrell, 18, and Robert Smith Jr., 16 — both of Pine Bluff — are being held without bond in the Faulkner County Detention Center for their alleged roles in 71-year-old Elvia Fragstein’s death. The teens are each being held as adults in connection with kidnapping, theft of property, capital murder and robbery following Fragstein’s death.
A missing persons investigation launched after Fragstein’s 79-year-old husband, Helmut, reported her missing July 7. The search soon turned into a murder investigation after Elvia’s body was found in a wooded area along Gibb Anderson Raod in Jefferson County on July 11.
The teens accused of abducting the Wooster woman from a Conway shopping center stood before Circuit Judge Troy Braswell Jr. on Wednesday for what was initially scheduled as a plea and arraignment hearing. However, as the teens stood separately by their newly-appointed public defenders Wednesday afternoon, Chief Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Carol Crews said prosecutors need more time to file formal charges against the Pine Bluff teens.
Crews said the 20th Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney’s office is still reviewing evidence collected by Faulkner County Sheriff’s Office deputies and is also waiting for additional evidence from Arkansas State Crime Lab officials.
Braswell agreed to schedule a Sept. 4 review hearing in both teens’ cases to allow prosecutors more time to consider their options.
During the hearing, the defendants were able to meet with their attorneys for the first time since they were put behind bars in the county jail.
Bill James was appointed to represent Mackrell, and Ron Davis Jr. was appointed to represent Smith.
Neither attorney would comment on the specifics surrounding their client’s cases. However, both confirmed they intend to enter a not guilty plea regarding any charge formally filed against the teens.
The third-floor courtroom was filled with supporters for both the prosecution and the defense Wednesday.
On the left, Elvia’s husband was accompanied by several of the couple’s children and other family members while the right side of the courtroom was filled with family and friends of the two Pine Bluff teens.
According to the defense counsel, the two boys do not have much of a criminal history.
Smith, the youngest of the two, stood in shackles before the court at 3:15 p.m. Wednesday. As he stood next to his attorney, his head barely reached the tip of Davis’ shoulders.
“My understanding is he has no criminal history at all. No arrests, no juvenile arrests. I don’t think he even has as much as a traffic ticket,” Davis said of Smith following the hearing. “As you can tell, he looks like a baby almost.”
James said Mackrell has one prior juvenile arrest on his record.
The two attorneys recently received the arrest warrant affidavits regarding the charges the Pine Bluff teens are faced with.
As of Wednesday afternoon, neither defense attorney had had the opportunity to review the evidence currently against Mackrell and Smith.
Davis also requested on Wednesday that Braswell soon consider placing a bond for Smith’s release.
Braswell said he would not consider the matter during the afternoon hearing but would address it in the upcoming September review hearing.