The woman accused of crushing and killing a Pea Ridge police officer on Saturday was released from jail despite a history of low-intensity theft and drug-related offenses and a no-show record in Benton Counties Court and Washington.
Officer Kevin Apple was killed at a gas station in Pea Ridge on Saturday when he was hit by a jeep and dragged 149 feet, court documents show. Apple, a three-year Pea Ridge officer who was 23 in law enforcement, was pronounced dead at the scene.
Shawna Cash, 22, of Pine Bluff was arrested in this case along with Elijah Andazola, 18, of Bentonville. Benton County prosecutors have not filed formal charges against the two. The charges could be capital murder for Cash and accomplice in capital murder for Andazola.
According to court documents, Cash was driving the Jeep and Andazola was a passenger.
Cash has three open or reopened theft and drug cases in Benton County in addition to six in Washington County. Most of them in both counties include non-appearance charges or probation violations.
“She kept coming out, being released, and the covid is not an excuse, it’s an explanation,” said Matt Durrett, Washington County District Attorney, where Cash has cases from 2018. . “That’s the reason for that, trying to keep the numbers down.”
Authorities have released more people than usual from prisons during the coronavirus pandemic to reduce the prison population and the risk of virus transmission in institutions, he said.
That said, the system failed in Cash’s case, Durrett said.
Durrett said it was a combination of his law enforcement officers pre-drafting citations of people for low-intensity non-violent crimes and freeing them and a huge backlog of cases. resulting from the closure of courts to most face-to-face proceedings during the pandemic.
The criteria are that it be a non-violent offense, a local address, no failure to appear and no pending charges, he said.
Cash has not appeared twice, but due to the backlog no warrant has been issued against her, Durrett said.
He said the criminal justice system has been inundated with cases of people not showing up for indictments since authorities started releasing people on felony citations. There was also a spike during the pandemic in people who did not show up on their court dates.
“At arraignment alone, we average 100 a month,” Durrett said.
The figure excludes those who have not appeared in the courts of circuit judges Mark Lindsay and Joanna Taylor, who hear most felony cases, he said.
“We only have a limited number of staff who can work on it, and doing almost a thousand failures to appear is a daunting task,” he explained.
Durrett said Cash’s case is a particularly bitter pill because it led to the death of a police officer.
“It is always a kick in the stomach to realize that she has not appeared and that she has been arrested several times. A missed opportunity” to get her off the street, has t -he declares.
Circuit judges on Monday ordered Cash and Andazola to be held without bail in the Benton County Jail.
Benton County Circuit Judge Brad Karren issued a gag order in the Cash case, which bars prosecutors, police and defense attorneys involved in the case from speaking publicly about the case. ‘case.
Durrett said on Tuesday he would review the citation system with judges and jailers to try to remedy the situation.
“If we had done this she would be in jail. There is no other way,” he said. “There is no way to polish it.”
Durrett said he was unsure whether Cash’s probation violation arrests coincided with an arrest on a new charge.
“She has at least four new charges, four open charges, so I don’t know if she was arrested on the revocations at the same time or if she was arrested a fifth time,” he said. “But, the felony citations pre-clearance failed here.”
Durrett said he shared some of the blame for Cash being on the streets on Saturday.
“At the end of the day, it’s my name on each of these felony quotes. So I can’t blame anyone else,” he said. “Obviously the hindsight is 20-20, but someone with so many new arrests shouldn’t always be there and shouldn’t have been cited over and over and over again in jail.”
Durrett said one of the conditions of release on citation for low-severity misdemeanors is that the person does not have a non-appearance charge.
“This is a factor that is supposed to be looked at before a person is cited for a felony, but during the covid pandemic we have released some of these people who are facing a [warrant] on monitors, ”he said.
Washington County Sheriff Tim Helder noted that none of the charges against Cash before Saturday involved violence. Helder said the arrests were made at a time when the prison was full and inmates were sleeping on the floor.
Helder said Cash’s arrests in 2020 and 2021, five in total, did not show an exceptional failure to appear. Cash did not appear in 2019, but she was later bonded by the Bail Project. The Bail Project is a non-profit group that works to get those who follow its guidelines out of prison through the bail system.
Randall Denzer, captain of the prison, said the facility had been operating at full capacity for three years and had 800 people when the pandemic began last year. They still have 40 to 50 people a night sleeping on the floor, he said.
“If it wasn’t violent, she probably would have come out anyway,” Denzer said. “Who are you ditching? The murderers and the rapists and the sex offenders and all the rest? I hate that she’s up there in that car because we didn’t have room for her.”
Denzer said the prison likely would have had room for lower-level offenders like Cash if the Washington County court had approved a 700- to 800-bed extension of the prison three years ago.
“If they had, we would already be in it, and we wouldn’t have any of these problems with detaining people,” Denzer said.
Shawna Rhae Cash has had several run-ins with law enforcement in Benton and Washington counties since 2018. Here’s a look at the criminal charges against Cash.
• December 23, 2019: Cash was charged with possession of methamphetamine or cocaine. She did not appear twice and was arrested for failing to appear twice, but bonded each time. The case remains open.
• July 2, 2019: Cash was charged with residential burglary and theft of property. She was sentenced to probation. Prosecutors then decided to revoke Cash’s probation, but she did not show up. Cash was arrested on failure to appear and bonded. The case is pending.
• January 31, 2019: Cash was charged with possession of methamphetamine or cocaine. She did not appear in court, but was put on bail. She then pleaded guilty and was sentenced to probation. Prosecutors then decided to revoke Cash’s probation, and she did not appear. Cash was arrested for failure to appear and returned on June 24, 2021. Two days later, she was arrested in connection with the death of Pea Ridge officer Kevin Apple.
• May 19, 2018: Cash was arrested in connection with a reception robbery, but the charge was later dropped by prosecutors.
• February 4, 2021: Cash was accused of theft by receipt. The case remains open.
• January 19, 2021: Cash was accused of theft by receipt. The case remains open.
• December 14, 2020: Cash was accused of theft by receipt. The case remains open.
• January 3, 2020: Cash was charged with theft of property and fraudulent use of a credit or debit card. The case remains open.
• September 7, 2018: Cash was charged with non-appearance for a felony. She pleaded guilty and was sentenced to probation, which prosecutors later decided to revoke. The case is pending.
• August 7, 2018: Cash was charged with possession of drug paraphernalia for methamphetamine or cocaine. She did not show up, but was later arrested for failure to appear and sentenced to probation on the original charges, which prosecutors later decided to revoke. The case is pending.
Source: Benton, Washington Counties
Shawna Cash, 22, of Pine Bluff was arrested for capital murder, absconding, criminal mischief, escaping on foot, two counts of absconding, five counts of aggravated assault, obstructing government operations, two counts of criminal mischief first degree, evasion, driving with suspended / revoked license, two counts of failure to stop or yield, three counts of reckless driving, failure to report, driving left of center, three counts of failure to yield the vehicle overtaking on the left, speeding, improper use of the registration, failure to stop after an accident with death, possession of a controlled substance and failure to appear.
Elijah Andazola, 18, of Bentonville, was arrested for complicity in capital murder, on the run and refusing to submit to arrest.
Source: Benton County Circuit Court