Four juveniles may be tried as adults for murder following the death of Juneau resident Kevin Thornton, 19, in an Arkansas hospital following a brutal and, witnesses say, unprovoked beating on July 20.
The Malvern (Ark.) Daily Record newspaper reported the four suspects — one 17-year–old, two 16-year-olds and a 14-year-old — passed Thornton and another man walking near a Baptist church in the Arkansas town about 45 miles southwest of Little Rock and decided to turn the truck around and beat them.
Thornton’s companion got away, but Thornton was attacked and hit his head on a rock when he fell, according to investigator Phillip Calhoun, who testified in a Hot Spring County court July 27.
Calhoun said the four had been drinking when they drove down Traskwood Road near the Glen Rose Baptist Church and happened upon the men.
One of the youths struck Thornton’s 20-year-old companion, but that victim was able to deflect the blow and escape. Thornton was then attacked by a 17- and a 16-year–old.
Calhoun said Thornton fell and hit his head on the rock, then three of the youths started beating and kicking him while he was unconscious.
The fourth youth urged the three to leave the area, and the four then dragged Thornton into a ditch before leaving, Calhoun testified.
A passerby found Thornton, picked him up and carried him to the nearby church, believing he might be part of the congregation, and authorities were called.
Thornton was medevaced to a hospital in Little Rock and was put into a drug-induced coma.
He had damage to his head, back and side. He died Wednesday afternoon.
Calhoun was quoted in the newspaper as saying that many at the church, including the pastor, helped identify the suspects.
Two of the youths also allegedly bragged about the incident to their friends.
“The pastor of the church knew them all by name,” Calhoun was quoted as saying. “He saw them drive by earlier in the night, and two juveniles identified them as being in the truck.”
Calhoun said he didn’t know why the attack happened.
“I wish I knew,” he said. “Almost all of them said that it was random.”
Judge Phillip Shirron said Wednesday in court if the victim died, the four could be facing murder charges.
Due to the hour differences between Arkansas and Alaska, the Empire could not confirm that charges were indeed filed on Thursday.
The suspects were held in juvenile detention facilities following the Wednesday detention hearing.
Thornton graduated from Thunder Mountain High School in 2010, said Graham Storey, who taught Thornton at TMHS.
Empire archives reveal Thornton also attended Juneau-Douglas High School for two years, and that he was an honor student at Dzantik’i Heeni Middle School.
“He was just a really nice kid to have in class,” Storey said. “Never one of those kids to get in trouble with the teachers.”