A juvenile homicide defendant has requested his case be transferred out of the adult division of Sebastian County Circuit Court, but prosecutors have cited numerous aspects of the case in defense of his adult charges.

Prosecutor Dan Shue on Feb. 4 filed a motion against 17-year-old Kennith Anthony Dewayne Thomas' motion to be transferred to the juvenile division of Circuit Court filed the day prior. Deputy Prosecutor Linda Ward in the motion argued that Thomas, who has been charged with first-degree murder and aggravated robbery in the Oct. 19 death of University of Arkansas at Fort Smith (UAFS) student Adam Watson, was involved in gangs prior to his arrest and that the nature of the alleged incident supports the charge level.

Thomas on the evening of Oct. 19 allegedly told his friends he would only use a .22-caliber semi-automatic pistol to scare Watson while stealing marijuana from him. He instead used it to shoot him in the parking lot of the Family Dollar at 3201 Grand Ave. in Fort Smith, according to the probable cause affidavit.

County prosecutors in Arkansas have discretion to charge juveniles 16 years of age or older as adults if they have engaged in conduct that if committed by an adult would constitute felony charges. Arkansas law requires judges presiding over such cases to consider factors including the seriousness and nature of the offense, the responsibility and maturity level of the defendant, the defendant's history, and if there are sentencing alternatives when deciding whether or not to transfer a juvenile in the way requested.

Thomas' public defender Allen Franco asked Judge James O. Cox to consider such factors in his decision of whether to transfer. Franco in the motion also argued that Thomas' age was grounds for the transfer.

Ward in response to the transfer motion argued against it by pointing out the alleged crime was committed against a person, Thomas’ alleged planning of the homicide and how he allegedly acted alone in the homicide. She also said Thomas was on runaway status and has been unwilling to cooperate with juvenile court programs, according to records.

Ward additionally argued Thomas was in the Oildale Peckerwoods gang and that he was failed out of the Camp Erwin program, which she said is similar to Arkansas Division of Youth Services or a training school.

Fort Smith police found Watson’s body inside a vehicle in the parking lot and determined Thomas as a suspect through witnesses and surveillance footage in the area. They discovered Thomas was in the Pocola area through "known residences," according to police spokesperson Aric Mitchell.

Pocola police arrested Thomas around 3 a.m. Oct. 20, according to Pocola police investigator Michael Roeder.

Watson, 30, was a first-year transfer student at UAFS majoring in finance. UAFS Dean of Students Dave Stevens said Watson was respectful and friendly, and that he was at school "to create a better future for himself."

University spokesperson Rachel Putman said administration and faculty at UAFS were "devastated" after Watson’s death.

Thomas' transfer hearing is scheduled March 5. His trial is currently scheduled the week of May 18 in the adult division of Sebastian County Circuit Court.