2 from Harrison arrested for murder after body found in church parking lot

Around Arkansas

BOONE COUNTY (KNWA/KFTA) — Boone County Sheriff’s Office announced Monday two people from Harrison were arrested for murder after a man was found shot dead in a parking lot at the Berman Church of Christ in North Arkansas.

Sheriff Tim Roberson said around 10 p.m. on January 16, 28-year-old Mark Payton, Jr. of Harrison and 23-year-old Lauren Ashley Smith of Harrison were taken into custody following the discovery of a body.

28-year-old Mark Payton, Jr. (left) of Harrison and 23-year-old Lauren Ashley Smith of Harrison

The victim, identified as 34-year-old Justin Lee Brown of Harrison, was found shot.  Brown found by Bergman Police Chief Fred Starnes.

Chief Starnes reported a vehicle that had been seen in the area just prior to the discovery and requested assistance from the Boone County Sheriff’s Department and Harrison Police Officers with locating the suspect vehicle. 

Harrison Police Ptl. Ryan Guffy along with Ptl. John Contreras spotted the suspect car entering Harrison, the officers stopped the two with fellow officers Cpl. Greg Siemiller and Ptl. Eric Vandergrift. 

A weapon was recovered at the scene of the stop which was identified as a reported stolen firearm from Marion County.

As a result of the investigation both Payton and Smith have been charged with Murder in the 1st Degree.  Payton is being charged with additional felony offenses relating to being a convicted felon and utilizing that stolen firearm in the commission of the act. 

Smith is being charged with an additional offense of felony hindering prosecution by providing false information to officers.

Sheriff Roberson commends the observation and actions of the Bergman Police Chief and the Harrison Police Officers that responded to this tragic incident.  “Their actions lead to the swift apprehension and identification of the persons responsible,” Roberson said.

Payton’s bond was set at $500,000.00 and Smith’s bond at $250,000.00 on the charges.  Both suspects are on current felony probation status and are being held without bond pending a revocation.    

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