Update August 31st: Three of the four assailants have been publicly identified and charged with second-degree murder; they will be tried as adults. Updated post HERE.
A Juneau resident visiting family and friends in Hot Springs County, Arkansas has died of wounds sustained after a brutal beating at the hands of four thugs on July 20th, 2011. While the Anchorage Daily News provides an introductory report, the primary report comes from KATV Channel 7 in Little Rock. Newer stories from the Juneau Empire and the Malvern (AR) Daily Record are now available; some of that information is incorporated into this post.
On July 20th, while walking with a friend along Traskwood Road in the Glen Rose area in Malvern, Arkansas, Juneau resident Kevin Thornton (photo HERE) and his friend were accosted by the four thugs who were riding in a pickup truck; the four had been reportedly drinking. While the friend got away, the four assaulted Thornton; one comment to KATV indicates a tire iron might have been used. After Thornton fell down and hit his head on a rock, three of the assailants continued beating and kicking him while he was unconscious. The four then dragged Thornton into a ditch and drove away. The assault appears to have been unprovoked. A nearby resident who saw Thornton lying in the ditch called 911 and requested an ambulance and law enforcement. Responding paramedics found that Thornton was sweating profusely, unresponsive and had incoherent speech; he also had several large knots on his back and side as well as possible structural damage to his face.
Police immediately investigated, determined the most likely perpetrators with the help of the pastor of the nearby Glen Rose Missionary Baptist Church, and arrested two juveniles on July 26th. Two other juveniles turned themselves in the next day. The juveniles are partially identified as R.W., aged 17; T.N., aged 16; C.R., aged 16; and J.G., aged 14. On July 27th, the four were initially charged with first degree battery, but after Thornton, who had been on life support since the assault, was pronounced dead at 3;30 P.M., the charges were upgraded to second degree murder. They will most likely be tried as adults.
According to another comment posted on KATV, Thornton's family is "devastated". Thornton graduated from Juneau's Thunder Mountain High School in 2010. Before that, he also attended Juneau-Douglas High School for two years, and was an honor student at Dzantik’i Heeni Middle School. The maternal grandparents of Thornton, Charles and Doris Legg of North Attleboro, MA, are making funeral arrangements and said the service will be held at St. Mark's Church in North Attleboro at a time and date to be determined. The Glen Rose Missionary Baptist Church is taking up a collection from local residents to provide funds to the bereaved family.
Some questions have already surfaced as to why the racial identity of the attackers has not been disclosed, because of the tendency of bigger media outlets to suppress it in black vs. white attacks. Perhaps it may not be a factor in this case; there's been no discussion of hate crimes charges, and there has been no discussion of race in the KATV comments. If the attackers were black, somebody would have already commented on it, and a small-town newspaper like the Malvern Daily Record would have disclosed it by now. Small-town media outlets are less prone to political correctness.
The comments section of the KATV report is loaded with additional information. Kevin Thornton touched a number of lives, and several who knew him have expressed themselves. Some people want the death penalty for the assailants. Here's a sampling (after the jump):
MKCmom 29 mins ago:
I do not understand the charge being 2nd degree Murder. I am the mother of a friend of Kevin and his friend. My daughter spent countless hours on the phone with his friend while he waited by Kevin's side. These people are devestated. But, more, there have been 2 reasons given,"why" these 4 decided to attack. (As if there could be a reason!) That and the tire iron would seem to point to premeditation- doesn't that make this 1st degree? I also have 2 boys and cannot imagine the pain of the victim's family or the parents of the murderers. However, it seems like if all involved had been in their 20's or better, the charge would be greater. I do think they should be charged as adults, and the charge should fit the crime. Premeditated, 1st degree and tampering charges for what was done with the "evidence." If I lived in Arkansas, I'd be on the phone to authorities demanding a just charge.
3forKev 1 hour ago:
For now they are "suspects" and yes, God & judges will decide what will happen. For now, bless Kevin's family & friends, his friend who sat next to him for 7 days with his mom, praying they would get to tell Kevin even 1 more time that they loved him. I went to school with Kevin, and he was what everyone calls him: sweet, gentle, kind, loving. He is in a better place now, where he is NOT paralyzed or suffering from brain damage. We don't need to judge people here on earth we just need to separate the attackers from society to prevent more damage, and know that when they die, they will get the ultimate judgement. Rest in Peace Kevin, we will ALL miss you here in Juneau until we see you again. We love you, and we will never forget that goofy red-head kid who could ALWAYS make us smile. You will always be known as the guy who never had bad days, and never let anyone else have them either.
Twyla 2 hours ago:
Kevin stopped by for 4 days on his way to Arkansas and we so adopted him into our family. He was the sweetest, thoughtful, kindest 19 year old boy you would ever meet. He would never hurt anyone. That was not in his nature. I can't imagine him having any enemies. Our family is grieving over this loss. Such an act of violence is so hard to comprehend. There is no making any sense out of it. I agree, there was only 1 life lost. The 4 boys who did this still have their lives. When they are in jail, their families can still see them. My hope is that this will be a wakeup call for these boys that did this. Don't get me wrong, I totally want to see justice served, but I hope these boys will realize what their actions have really caused and the lives it has affected. My heart goes out for all the family and friends affected by this, ours included!
KTbeautifulKT 3 hours ago:
My heart breaks for his family. I live in Washington and I know his family members. Kevin was an amazingly funny, great-hearted kid with a wonderful future ahead of him. As a parent, I'm having a hard time dealing with this. There was NO REASON. It was unprovoked. I don't know how you deal with the fact that your son is gone and there was NOTHING you could do to prevent it and no purpose in it. I do NOT feel sorry for the 4 that beat him up. I hope they are tried as adults. I would wish the death penalty in all honesty because if they have that little humanity and compassion then they will just grow up to do more of the same and are a danger to all society. If not the death penalty then they should never get out of prison. I don't CARE what their life circumstances are, there is no justification for what they did. Kevin should be alive today and he's not and it breaks my heart.
JustDisgusted 7 hours ago:
Kevin is a child of my relative. The family is devastated. I can not believe such a random act of violence. Why would they beat someone to DEATH for the hell of it? Senseless and stupid and now a bright, kind young man is gone. I hope they do charge all of these young men for the murders they are and I hope they all get the maximum sentence. They destroyed so many lives with their act...Kevin's, his family, friends...and their own lives, family and friends. So, so pointless.
And a comment to the Juneau Empire story:
A genuinely good guy.
By AK | 07/28/11 - 09:37 pm
Kevin was a one of the sweetest, most gentle guys I've ever met. His death was extremely unexpected and many people, as well as myself, are grieving the loss of such a great friend. The world is a lesser place because such a great guy, Kevin, was taken so soon. I hope these four boys are able to understand just how many lives they've permanently scarred; people they don't know and will probably never know. Juneau is such a close-knit community that when something tragic happens to one of us, it affects us all. I hope Kevin knew just how much he was loved. I love and and miss you, Kev, and I'll keep you in my heart forever.