Pulaski County District Court Judge Wayne Gruber has approved the release of the arrest affidavits of Robert Todd Gatrell and Daniel Chase Gatrell, the two men currently held by police in the murder of Hannah Dowdie and her father Michael Palmer. The Arkansas Times wrote about the case recently.
Hannah was one month shy of her second birthday when she died, and had only been awarded to her father the day before by the courts after spending most of her life in foster care.
According to the affidavit, Robert Gatrell confessed to several of his relatives and friends that on December 12, 2009, he and Daniel Gatrell killed Michael Palmer and his daughter because Palmer owed Robert Gatrell money. Witnesses listed in the affidavit told police that Robert Gatrell told them Michael Palmer was shot three times with a shotgun while his daughter played inside Robert Gatrell's home on Shamburger Lane with another child -- though Gatrell's account of whether he or Daniel Gatrell did the shooting is in question.
After Palmer was dead, the affidavit states, the Gatrells rolled Michael Palmer's body in a rug and put him in the back of Palmer's GMC pickup, then got Hannah Grace Dowdie from the house. According to relatives of Daniel Gatrell, he told them that Robert Gatrell told him the girl was "evidence" and "they needed to get rid of her." Daniel Gatrell then told witnesses that after Robert Gatrell strapped the girl into a car seat in the front of the pickup, Robert Gatrell drove the truck to Wilbern Road near Granite Mountain Quarries, doused it with gasoline, and set it on fire with the girl still inside. The affidavit says she died of burns and smoke inhalation.
According to those listed in the affidavit, Robert Gatrell managed to set himself on fire while torching the truck, receiving second degree burns to his back and arm. He and Daniel Gatrell are being held on charges of arson and two counts each of capital murder.