Gary B.: Not the first time Stone County suspect has been charged with a murder

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Nathaniel A. Freeman, 54, was recently charged in Stone County Circuit Court with first-degree murder in the shooting death of his 46-year-old wife, Dora Cary Freeman. (Click here for more information on that story from White River Now.)

This incident, which is yet to go to court, is not the first instance in which Nathaniel Freeman has been charged with murder. 

Over 20 years ago, Freeman was charged with second-degree murder in the death of Ricky L. Strong.

According to the affidavit for warrant for arrest, Strong was a visitor in Freeman’s home near Alco in December of 1998. 

The case was held in the Stone County Circuit Courtroom with the Honorable Judge John Dan Kemp presiding. The case was prosecuted for the state by Stone County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Holly Lodge Meyer, who is now a circuit judge in the 16th District.

Freeman was defended by a lawyer by the name of Norman C. Wilber, an attorney who resided out of the district. The case was investigated by Arthur Raff, an investigator in the Criminal Investigative Division of the Arkansas State Police. 

Strong was shot and killed on Dec. 23, 1998, and the case went to trial almost a year later on Dec. 15, 1999. 

On the night of the shooting, the Stone County Sheriff’s Office got a 911 call at 11:50 p.m. from Nathaniel Freeman’s wife at the time, Janet Freeman, requesting an ambulance and the sheriff to come to the Freeman residence because of a shooting.  

When officers arrived, they found the body of Strong sitting on a couch in the living room of the home.  Strong was dead from a gunshot wound to his right collar bone area, according to authorities. The only other two people in the house were Janet and Nathaniel Freeman. Investigator Raff said officers found a 12-gauge, single-shot shotgun on the floor. There was an empty shell in the gun’s chamber. Raff added that evidence gathered at the scene indicated Strong had been shot while he sat on the couch, according to court documents. 

During a later interview, Nathaniel, who was 33 years old at the time, admitted to shooting Strong. Nathaniel told authorities he shot the victim because Strong had grabbed his wife, although she was standing in another part of the living room and was not being held by Strong when Strong was shot, the record said. Raff noted that Janet Freeman’s shirt was torn, but had no sign of injury.

According to the arrest affidavit, Nathaniel said it made him mad that Strong grabbed his wife. He said he told Strong to leave the residence, and Strong laughed at him. Nathaniel said that made him “lose it.” He told the court he then grabbed the shotgun and shot Strong. Nathaniel added that he shot Strong to make him leave his wife alone. Investigator Raff said Strong had a broken leg at the time of the shooting and needed crutches to walk.

When the case went to the jury of eight women and four men, the verdict was not guilty of second-degree murder, not guilty of manslaughter, and not guilty of negligent homicide.

After reading the results of the state police investigator’s report, one wonders how the “not guilty” verdicts came about.

An observer in the courtroom throughout the trial said the “not guilty” verdicts were probably the result of three things. One was the effective job done by Wilber, the defense attorney. Another was the way Strong was depicted as having insulted, pestered, and even laughed at Nathaniel just before the shooting. And the third reason was the believable and emotional testimony of Nathaniel’s wife, Janet Freeman. The testimony said Nathaniel had gone to bed when he heard Janet scream. Nathaniel came into the living room and saw his wife’s sweater had been ripped off by Strong, according to the testimony.  With Strong sitting on the couch, Nathaniel grabbed his shotgun and shot and killed Strong. Strong was sitting on the couch because of his broken leg and could only walk with crutches.

Nathaniel Freeman is now in jail on a $1,000,000 bail, accused of shooting and killing his wife, Dora Cary Freeman.

Image via Stone County Sheriff’s Office

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2 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you so much for printing this story! Rickey Strong was my brother. Rickey could hardly get around because of his broken leg, and he was never known before to try and rape anyone. We are from Stone County, we went to school at Leslie and even Timbo a few years. Everyone knew us. Our mother is Morene Harness and still lives in Flag. RIP Rickey. It’s so sad someone else had to die at this man’s hand. Prayers for everybody’s family this man has hurt, even his own. Cheryl Hensley

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