Bloody shoe prints on the front porch greeted Searcy police when they arrived the evening of Aug. 17 at 107 S. Oak St. to check on the resident’s welfare. Inside the residence, they found 74-year-old Van Stevens dead with “multiple stab-type wounds to his body and blunt force trauma to the top of his head.”
Christopher Coy Gamble, 32, of Searcy was identified during the investigation as a possible suspect because he had been reportedly “present in the area regarding other incidents.” He has been officially charged with class Y felony capital murder, class Y felony aggravated residential burglary, class D felony breaking and entering and as a habitual offender, according to a warrant issued last week at the request of the 17th Judicial District Attorney’s Office.
The affidavit for Gamble’s arrest was made publicly available after the warrant was issued, detailing the crime. A Nov. 3 court date has been set for Gamble in the case.
Prosecuting Attorney Becky McCoy said he has been appointed the public defender commission and probably an attorney out of Little Rock will be assigned. McCoy added that Gamble will have different public defenders for his two probation revocations and his capital murder court appearance. Gamble is being held in the White County Detention Center without bond.
The affidavit written by Searcy Police Department Detective Brian Fritts says that Gamble was found by officers the day after Stevens was killed and officers had responded to his address around 8:57 p.m. Gamble reportedly agreed to be taken to the police department and was searched for weapons before being placed in the patrol vehicle. A “folded piece of paper, stained in a dried red substance” was found on him, Fritts wrote.
Gamble reportedly told police that he was at a friend’s residence at 109 S. Oak St. on Aug. 17. Around daybreak, he “walked over” to 107 S. Oak and noticed that a truck parked in front of the residence was unlocked. He reportedly said he got in the vehicle to look around and then entered the residence to speak with Stevens.
He described to police what the interior of the residence looked like and what Stevens was wearing when his body was found, Fritts wrote. Gamble, according to Fritts, said he had talked to Stevens, who reportedly had “just woken up” and “was upset.”
Gamble reportedly said he felt Stevens’ anger was “racially charged,” which “aggravated Gamble.” He admitted to normally carrying a knife on him but said someone had stolen it the evening of the murder while he was attempting to wash his clothes at a laundromat. Gamble then asked for a lawyer.
Security footage from the laundromat, Super Suds at 802 E. Moore Ave., reportedly Gamble wearing a dark shirt, two-tone jeans, black Puma Tropus tennis shoes and a tan East Sport backpack Aug. 16. Security footage at BBL Oil at 111 S. Oak St. also was examined and showed a dark male resembling Gamble at daybreak Aug. 17 wearing a tan backpack, a dark shirt and two-tone jeans. He was observed changing into a long sleeve shirt, placing a mask on his face and a piece of clothing on his head and walking toward 107 S. Oak St. He later was observed wearing a red shirt and white shorts and a fire was visible in the backyard of the residence at 109 S. Oak St.
A witness allegedly saw Gamble standing next to bushes planted at 107 S. Oak St. on Aug. 17 around 7 a.m. while wearing a black hoodie. When he or she was observed by Gamble, the witness said, Gamble walked into the bushes and behind the residence at 109 S. Oak St.
A second witness, according to affidavit, was sleeping inside the 109 S. Oak St. residence Aug. 18 when Gamble entered the residence and took a shower. This witness recognized him from “previous encounters,” Fritts wrote.
The first witness reportedly said Gamble reappeared about 10 to 15 minutes after he or she arrived at the 109 S. Oak St. residence and he was beside the house wearing different clothing. The witness said Gamble was now wearing white clothing and a black backpack.
A third witness said that on Aug. 17, according to police, a firefighter with the Searcy Fire Department asked if the person knew there was a fire behind the 109 S. Oak St. residence. The witness told the firefighter that he or she did not know there was a fire but felt he or she knew who set the fire, later identifying that person as Gamble.
The firefighter helped put out the fire due to it being “in proximity of bulk fuel containers,” according to the affidavit, and provided a statement that in the ashes were a “white-handled knife, electronic-type debris along with a mixture of cloth type material as well as a paper product.”
Police were given permission to search the burn debris at 11:35 p.m. Aug. 17 and photographed a knife handle with a broken blade. A can of lighter fluid was allegedly observed also.
A search warrant executed the next day allowed ashes to be collected along with the tip of a broken knife blade, electronic type debris and a mixture of cloth-type material and paper product. A search of the paper products “produced partially burnt documents with the words Chris, Gamble, detention center and the number 6534, which reportedly returned to Gamble’s inmate number assigned to him by the White County Detention Center,” Fritts wrote. The brands of clothing burned also were identified.
A partially burned light bulb, various burned charging cables and a spark plug also were located, which were consistent, based on body cam footage, with items found with Gamble on Aug. 15 when he had fallen asleep in a vehicle on Pecan Street. The footage also documented a pair of Puma Tropus tennis shoes with a “visually observable pattern identical to the blood stained pattern located at the residence at 107 S. Oak St.”
The affidavit states that Gamble was taken to Unity Health and security video from the facility documented Gamble exiting the building carrying the tan backpack on his left shoulder and the black Puma shoes in his left hand. Gamble, once outside reportedly placed his tennis shoes on his feet and walked westbound.
On Aug. 18, while searching Gamble, a key ring containing a grey BMW vehicle along with other various keys and a silver class ring reportedly were located. The class ring had a green stone with a name written across the side, and the phrase “We love you, son” written inside the band. The ring’s owner described it and the phrase inside the band and said it had been stolen out of their BMW vehicle.
The witness reportedly searched the vehicle and said a black backpack was found in the vehicle along with a grey bandana and a glass pipe. Beside the vehicle was a small burn pile. Found in the ashes of the burn pile was a set of vehicle keys and cloth-type materials.
“All items were collected and an initial search of the bandana under a black light produced the presence of blood-type substance splattered across half of the bandana,” Fritts wrote.
A sixth witness reportedly said Aug. 18 that Gamble was seen Aug. 17 walking to the steps of the rock house at 107 S. Oak St. and knocking on the front door. This witness also reportedly said he or she observed Gamble enter the residence and remain for about five minutes. Later, the witness observed that Gamble had changed clothes,
A seventh witness interviewed Sept. 28 reportedly said that while standing in the kitchen area of 109 S. Oak St. on Aug. 17, he overheard Gamble say, “I shouldn’t have killed that old man.” The witness said Gamble was not talking directly to him but “was more talking out loud,” Fritts wrote. This witness said Gamble appeared to be sweating and visibly shaking.