BY MELANIE BUCK –
The most grueling case to hit Polk County in recent history unfolded last week as four victims were recovered in a five day search that involved local, state, and federal agents who found themselves in a desperate attempt to locate the two young children that had been listed as missing in the heinous crime.
In a case that has shaken people across the county and devastated a family, law enforcement and the Prosecuting Attorney’s office now have the duty of piecing together the evidence in what turned out to be a quadruple homicide involving the deaths of 43-year old Bethany Jo (Scarbrough) Wester, of Mena, her two children, Reilly James Scarbrough, age 9, and Acelynn Carrie Wester, age two, and Bethany’s uncle, 66-year old Steven J. Payne, of Hatfield.
The case began when Wester’s body was found near a creek southeast of Cove, Ark. on Tuesday, April 25, 2017. The next morning, her children were announced as missing or endangered. On Thursday, Wester was officially identified. When law enforcement arrived at the home of Payne to inform him of the positive identity, they found Payne’s body. The search for the children continued.
At a press conference on Friday evening, an emotional Sheriff Scott Sawyer confirmed that the body of a toddler had been found and they assumed it to be that of Acelynn Wester. She was located in a heavily wooded area near where her mother’s body was recovered.
On Saturday, at another press conference, Sawyer announced the final blow – Reilly’s body had also been recovered, also in a heavily wooded area, but was located west of Hatfield, miles from his mother and sister.
All four victims were sent to the Arkansas Crime Lab for further investigation. The causes of death have not been released in the case, as it is an active homicide investigation.
Sawyer said that 70-80 certified law enforcement personnel from the FBI, Arkansas Game and Fish, Arkansas State Parks, U.S. Forest Service, Mena Police Department, Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, and the Grannis Police Department joined the search for the children and have assisted in the case.
Brian Bliss Travis, age 37, of Mena was arrested on unrelated charges to this case in the very early morning hours of Wednesday, April 26. Travis was the live-in boyfriend of Bethany Wester. During Saturday’s press conference, Sawyer announced that Travis had assisted officers in finding Reilly’s body.
On Monday, May 1, 2017, Travis was formally charged with four counts of Capital Murder and is being held in the Polk County Detention Center without bond. Also during the arraignment, Polk County Circuit Court Judge Jerry Ryan issued a Protective Order in the case, prohibiting any party from making extrajudicial statements. This process is also known as a ‘gag order.’ Travis was also arraigned on a count of Furnishing, Possessing, or Using Prohibited Articles.
A benefit account has been established at Union Bank of Mena to assist the Scarbrough family with the funeral expenses of Bethany Wester, Steven Payne, Reilly Scarbrough, and Acelynn Wester.
Memorial services for all four victims will be held on Friday, May 5, beginning at 1 p.m. at CMA Iron Mountain Facility.