MADISON COUNTY, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Edward Alan Austin, 53, of Pettigrew, has been arrested and faces charges of attempted capital murder, rape, and kidnapping after dragging a woman into a ravine.
According to a preliminary report, Madison County Sheriff’s deputies were dispatched late on January 5 to the Pettigrew RV Park in reference to a missing woman that had been found. Her shirt had been ripped open and she was located in a steep ravine. Upon arriving, the responding officer found that first responders had cut through a barbed wire fence to get down a hill to the ravine.
In his report, the deputy stated that he walked approximately 150 feet down a steep hill to reach the victim and discovered “scratches covering her entire body, brusing, and [she] appeared to have frostbite on her feet.” He continued by noting that she was unresponsive aside from an occasional moan.
Once she was removed from the ravine and put into an ambulance, medical personnel stated that her body temperature was “extremely low” and that she was in critical condition. She was evacuated by air to the Neurology Intensive Care Unit at Washington Regional Medical Center. She was placed on life support with a ventilator.
Members of her family were still on scene after searching for her, and they pointed out some things around Austin’s camper lot to the investigating deputy. The items included a blue jacket on the ground, a walking stick that belonged to Austin, and a string of Christmas lights lying on the ground next to the camper. The report states that about ten yards away from that was “a barbed wire fence that had blood on the lowest strand and blood on the third strand up from the ground.”
A rock in front of the camper door was also allegedly stained with blood. At this point, a search warrant for the grounds was obtained and executed.
The deputy then collected “samples of the blood on the barbed wire fence and the leaves underneath it that contained blood.” The officer also “collected the blood on the rock,” as well as the jacket. The report states that blood was also discovered and colllected from the living room floor by the front door, on the floor in the kitchen, and bedsheets “that appeared to be covered in dried blood.”
The deputy added that temperatures were below freezing and it began to snow while he was on scene.
On January 6 at approximately 10 a.m., a representative of Washington Regional Medical Center contacted the deputy to inform him that the victim was still in critical condition and that the sexual abuse department had collected a rape kit. Later that night, officers conducted an interview with Austin, who was in custody at the Madison County Holding Facility.
During that interview, Austin told officers that “someone was shooting him in the back of the neck with a dart” for about 20 minutes while he was driving to Huntsville from his camper in Pettigrew. He could not provide a name of the person he claimed was sitting in the back seat shooting him, but he stated that the dart “had drugs in it.”
Austin stated that the victim was in the front seat while this happened, but deputies noted he was “not certain and inconsistent with his statements.” He also complained about his foot, stating that he had frostbite.
According to officers, Austin “appeared to have frostbite on his right foot, as his big toe was black, purple, leaking puss and bleeding.” They added that he had multiple scratches above his foot and covering his body, as well as “multiple bruises covering his arms and a large scratch on his back.”
He said that the reason he had frostbite was because “his 17-year-old pug ran out of the house and into the woods,” and that he forgot to put on shoes, resulting in him running through the woods after the dog, causing the frostbite. Austin denied assaulting the victim or dragging her down into the ravine, but when asked, he “got defensive and stated that [she] was the one that attacked him.”
Interviews were also conducted with the victim’s family members that were present at the scene. They were each interviewed separately, and all of them stated that they believed Austin had dragged the victim down into the ravine and left her there, accoring to the report.
They also stated that the dog was barely able to walk due to his old age. A family member sent investigators a video of the pug struggling to walk.
At this point in the preliminary report, investigators noted that Austin had been arrested in October, 2021, for false imprisonment, assault on a family or household member, and criminal trespass in connection with “dragging [the victim] across the yard while she was yelling at him to stop.” The report named two witnesses to the incident.
On January 12, a deputy spoke to the victim at the hospital after she had her ventilator removed and was able to speak. When asked if she remembered anything about the incident in the ravine, she responded that “he was just going to let me die,” and she began to cry.
She said that Austin had gotten angry with her, was scaring her, and started hitting her before dragging her down the hill, through thorny bushes. She said those were the reason for the scratches all over her body.
She also confirmed that Austin had forced himself on her sexually and raped her. She stated that she tried to fight back while being dragged into the ravine, but that Austin left her there and she passed out.
The deputy asked the victim if Austin said anything to her during this process.
“You’ll do what I say,” she told the officer. “You’re going to stay down here, no one’s going to find you.”
The victim consented to cheek swabs, which were collected as potential evidence.
Austin is being held in the Madison County Holding Facility without bond and will be arraigned on March 8.