A 32-year-old Kensett man with a violent criminal history accused of the Aug. 17 murder of a 74-year-old Searcy resident was out on reduced bail because he was in jail in Memphis when he failed to appear in court last November in White County, according to 17th Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney Becky McCoy.
Christopher Coy Gamble was arrested by Searcy police Aug. 18 and charged in the murder of Van Stevens the previous night. According to Searcy police, Stevens was found during a welfare check with several puncture wounds to his body. The prosecutor’s office upped the charge to class Y felony capital murder the next day, and a breaking and entering charge was added. Gamble is being held with no bond at the White County Detention Center.
McCoy said Gamble also is facing second-degree battery and residential burglary charges in another case and has some probation revocations, but “he had bonded out on all of those charges, and [White County Circuit] Judge [Robert] Edwards (now retired) had set his bonds. He bonded out on those.”
“He got arrested in Memphis and he missed his court date so Judge Edwards had issued a failure to appear with like a $200,000 bond,” McCoy said. “I knew he was in jail in Memphis because I looked it up, so that’s a legitimate reason for not being in court if you are in jail somewhere else.
“They switched public defenders and his new public defender argued that his original bonds be reinstated, and rightfully they should have been reinstated because it wasn’t his fault he wasn’t in court.”
She said new White County Circuit Judge Mark Pate “reinstated his original bonds and his bondsman agreed to stay on the bonds, so he was released from jail. So that’s why his bond from $200,000 got reduced down to back at whatever it was.”
An article in The Daily Citizen last November shows that Gamble was issued a $10,000 bond. He failed to appear Nov. 5.
In the Oct. 21, 2019, incident, Gamble’s charges stem from allegedly striking a 67-year-old man several times in the head in Kensett, causing a “brain bleed.” Arkansas Court Connect also has 22 records posted since 2006 in regard to Gamble’s history with the court system.
According to the affidavit by Detective Mary Rudesill of the Kensett Police Department, she made contact with the alleged victim of battery Oct. 21 after receiving a 911 call stating Gamble had physically assaulted an elderly man and fled.
The alleged victim “had obvious head trauma and was bleeding from both sides of his head,” Rudesill wrote. He was reportedly transported to the Unity Health-White County Medical Center Emergency Room.
Witnesses reportedly directed the detective to a residence on East Cypert Street, where the incident occurred. The alleged victim had been found a block away, according to the affidavit. A black bag was reportedly found in the road in front of the residence, containing “paperwork in the name of Christopher Coy Gamble.” In addition, Rudesill wrote, two witnesses identified Gamble as the suspect.
“According to those witnesses, Chris Gamble entered the trailer on E. Cypert and began striking [the alleged victim] in the head multiple times,” Rudesill wrote. She stated she discovered “blood evidence” in the area “where the victim had fallen after being struck in the head.”
Rudesill reportedly then went to Unity Health, where she learned that the alleged victim had “a brain bleed” and was in serious condition, requiring that he be transferred to Little Rock for advanced care.
The alleged victim was reportedly discharged Oct. 22, but would have to return for later surgery. His medical records reportedly showed that “he suffered bilateral facial lacerations and a subarachnoid hemorrhage as a result of the head trauma.”
Rudesill wrote that she attempted to get a statement from him, but he had difficulty recalling what happened due to his head trauma. However, he reportedly was immediately able to identify Gamble from a photo lineup.
When Rudesill initially responded to the scene Oct. 21, witnesses reportedly said that Gamble had fled north toward Martin Luther King Drive.
“We then began receiving multiple 911 calls from residents in the area advising that Chris Gamble was at their house trying to get inside,” she wrote. “A perimeter was established in that area, but officers were unable to locate him.”
On Oct. 24, Gamble was reported by a Kensett resident to possibly be inside his home. He reportedly noticed that his door was dead-bolted when he arrived home that day, and he could not unlock it with his key. However, a window on the west side was open.
Gamble had lived at the residence previously and the resident knew police were looking for him, according to the affidavit.
“Law enforcement made entry and located Gamble in a bedroom,” Rudesill wrote. “He did not have a key to the residence, did not reside there and did not have permission to be inside.”
Gamble is next expected in court for two probation revocations and the Kensett case Oct. 17 at 1 p.m. Additional information on the murder case, including scheduled court dates, was not yet available.