FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Clay Fowlkes, the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Arkansas federal court, explained some of the complexities involved in the case of a Missouri couple being charged after a pregnant Benton County woman was kidnapped and killed.
“This is a very unique case with a very unique set of circumstances,” he said. “There are four separate jurisdictions that have a significant interest in prosecuting these two individuals.”
Amber Waterman, 42, was charged with kidnapping resulting in death and her husband, Jamie Waterman, 42, was charged with being an accessory after the fact to kidnapping resulting in death. Court documents state that Amber Waterman abducted Ashley Bush, 33, “for the purpose and benefit of claiming Ashley Bush’s child as the defendant’s child,” and that she transported her across state lines from Arkansas to Missouri.
Bush’s burned body was found on November 3 near the Waterman’s residence in Pineville, Missouri and the victim’s unborn child was found dead at a separate location.
Fowlkes noted that four jurisdictions—Arkansas and Missouri each at county and federal levels—have “very significant facts that would give them venue over this case.” He explained that the plan is to continue to discuss the case, examine all the facts and evidence, and “make a collaborative determination of which jurisdiction makes the most sense to go first in their prosecution.”
Because the crime began in the Western District of Arkansas and in Benton County, Arkansas and it continued on into southwest Missouri and McDonald County in Missouri, each one of those jurisdictions has some piece of the crime that was potentially committed in those areas.Clay Fowlkes, U.S. Attorney, Western District of Arkansas Federal Court
He added that each jurisdiction is entitled to proceed with its own case. He said that circumstances like this are “significantly rare” despite Arkansas’ proximity to multiple other state borders.
“We don’t have a lot of kidnappings resulting in murder that cross state lines,” he said. “Which is somewhat surprising.”
Fowlkes said that making sure that the community was protected from the suspects at all times was a primary consideration as the story unfolded, adding that it made the most sense for the couple to be arrested in McDonald County, where they were located. Those first two federal criminal complaints are the only charges filed so far.
He said that his office is in the process of gathering “as many facts as we can to support our efforts to potentially prosecute these individuals in the Western District of Arkansas.”
He refused to place a specific timetable on when charges might be filed in Arkansas.
“We’re going to take our time and we’re going to make a careful analysis of both the jurisdictional issues and the punishment issues,” he explained. “We want to make sure that this case is prosecuted in a way that would be respectful of the victims of this case.”
He continued by adding that the circumstances of the case could warrant pursuing the death penalty in federal court, and that the decision about whether to do so would be a “lengthy process” at the Department of Justice involving a committee that would make that final determination.
“There’s a long road that we need to go through to explore the facts and circumstances of this case and the laws applied to this case to determine if that’s appropriate,” he concluded.