WASHINGTON COUNTY, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — The prosecution in an upcoming Northwest Arkansas murder trial informed the court of its intention to seek the death penalty.
Prosecuting attorney Matt Durrett filed the notice of intent in the Circuit Court of Washington County, Seventh Division, on October 10 in the trial of Samuel Aaron Sean Appling, who was arrested nearly two years ago.
Appling, 23, of Fayetteville, is facing charges of capital murder and aggravated residential burglary stemming from an incident in November 2020, when a man called 911 in reference to a crime in progress on Rocky Creek Road in Fayetteville.
According to court documents, the caller said that someone broke into his home and tazed him, and he told police that he hit the intruder over the head with a weight and they both fell off the back porch. The caller identified the man as his daughter’s boyfriend.
A police dispatcher stated that the caller stopped answering questions and that it sounded like there was screaming for help. Deputies arrived shortly before 11:30 p.m. and saw a man running east with reflective material on his back.
That man, later identified as Appling, was wearing all black clothing, black gloves, a blue gaiter mask and a backpack. Deputies observed that his sleeve and gloves were covered with blood.
A blood-covered gun was recovered in the immediate area. Appling also had a fixed blade on his right hip that was covered in blood as well. Deputies searched his backpack and found items they said could be used to subdue, kill, dismember and bury a body.
Once Appling was secured, deputies found the 911 caller dead in his living room from apparent stab wounds.
The trial has been delayed several times, with the court issuing continuances on five occasions in 2021 and four more to date in 2022. On September 3, 2021, defense attorney Katherine S. Streett filed a motion with the court requesting that a higher standard of review and care be applied in the case due to the possibility of the death penalty.
“Death is different,” the filing states. “The imposition of the death penalty requires, as a matter of fundamental Constitutional law, heightened scrutiny and reliability in the guidance and exercise of sentencing discretion.”
At that time, the prosecution had not waived the option of seeking the death penalty. The recent filing explicitly states that the government will seek it in the case.
The prosecution noted that “aggravated circumstances” in the case include the fact that the “capital murder was committed in an especially cruel or depraved manner.”