Tempers are running high in Benton over Mayor Rick Holland's appointment of new Police Chief Kirk Lane. Holland appointed Lane, a former Benton police officer who has worked for the Pulaski County Sheriff's Department since 1999, on Dec. 30.
Lane and fellow officer Jay Campbell sued for defamation after their names were mentioned in the 1996 documentary “Obstruction of Justice: The Mena Connection,” which sought to link the 1987 train track murders of Saline County teen-agers Don Henry and Kevin Ives to a drug running conspiracy allegedly involving then-president Bill Clinton.
The documentary includes Lane's name in a list titled “Suspects Implicated in Ives/Henry Murders and Cover-Up.” In filings in the defamation suit, attorneys for the filmmakers cited an Arkansas State Police interview with a jailhouse informant who gave a secondhand account from a man who said that the night Ives and Henry were murdered, he saw Lane and another officer beat up two teen-agers at a grocery store in Alexander before tossing them into an unmarked patrol car and driving away. A lower court found in Lane's favor in his defamation suit, but the judgment was later overturned by the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Benton Councilman Joe Lee Richards said constituents and local business leaders have told him Lane has “too much baggage” to be police chief.
“I talked to Mayor Holland here about a week and a half ago, after he made the appointment, and he told me that [the Ives/Henry case] was 20-something years ago and it was old news and everybody had forgotten about it,” Richards said. “What I'm hearing is that it's not old news.”
Lane told the Times he feels he has been victimized by rumors of his involvement in the case, adding that he believes he was falsely accused in order to discredit his potential testimony in federal cases which were pending at the time of the murders. Lane said that he can understand why the rumors might persist. “If the family loses sight of us as suspects … they don't have anything else to hold onto,” Lane said.
The Insider has heard it from two sources now, but can't confirm that Warren Stephens is planning to tear down a building or buildings on the west side of Main Street between Fourth and Capitol. The financier, who at one time was going to refurbish the old Center Theater on the east side of the street, may want to build new office space and a parking deck, various versions of the rumor say. Stephens spokesman Frank Thomas, however, said Thursday there are “no definite” plans for the buildings. The buildings on the block include the old Kempner shoe store.