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Van Winkle Trial Begins

BY LEANN DILBECK –

Jury selection began today on day one of what is expected to be a five-day trial for local dentist Dr. David Van Winkle.  The selection process began at 9 am and ended at approximately 3:30 p.m. before the four women and eight men jury began hearing opening statements in Polk County Circuit Court before the honorable Judge J.W. Looney.

Van Winkle was arrested September 25, 2011 following a report from a complainant on Martin Street in Hatfield.

The most serious of the multiple charges against Van Winkle are Kidnapping, a Class Y Felony, Aggravated Residential Burglary, a Class Y Felony, Stalking in the First Degree, a Class B Felony, and Terroristic Threatening.

Van Winkle’s representation has changed since he was first charged and is now being represented by Bill James of Little Rock, Ark. The trial has also seen multiple delays before progressing to the courtroom today.

Opening statements from both the prosecution and the defense were extremely brief. Prosecuting Attorney Andy Riner stating confidence in the evidence collected. The defendant’s attorney, James, arguing that Van Winkle is legally blind without his glasses, unable to hear, as well as citing a head injury that Van Winkle sustained from football when he was a youth.

Three testimonies were heard today. The first was from the Hatfield Constable, Jim Carazzo, who was the first on the scene following the complaint made to the Polk County Command Center. Carazzo testified that as he came upon the residence, he saw a man fitting the description and placed him into custody until Deputy Ronnie Richardson arrived on the scene.

Richardson was questioned about the scene and the condition of Van Winkle, as well as evidence. Only two items of evidence were presented in court today including multiple small white ropes that were removed from Van Winkle’s pocket as well as one yellow and black screw driver that was removed from another pocket.

Richardson testified that assistance was requested from AGFC Officer Jeff Black to secure the residence on Martin Street. He also requested assistance from Deputy Gene Hendrix to follow-up with the victim in the case who was located at a different residence.  For scheduling purposes, Richardson was excused from the witness stand but will testify again beginning at 9 a.m. Tuesday morning and is expected to present additional evidence.

Certified Wildlife Officer for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, Jeff Black, was the final testimony given today in which he confirmed he did in fact “secure” the residence at Martin Street. He defined “secured” as not allowing anyone to enter the home.

Judge Looney then adjourned the court until 9 a.m. on Tuesday.

According to Sharon K. Simmons, Circuit Clerk, the trial will be the most expensive for the county this year. Contributing to the cost, Simmons said, is the expected length as well as the cost of a translator, who types in all of the dialogue in the courtroom for Van Winkle to read on a screen, the county is providing because of Van Winkle’s inability to hear.

Van Winkle remains free but on electronic monitoring and confined to his business at 601 Mena Street whereas he has been allowed to continue to practice his profession with the exception of issuing prescriptions or dispensing medications of any type.

Van Winkle is to be considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

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