Press Releases


Sheriff Richard Swain Passed Away January 25, 2015

Cleburne County Sheriff Richard Swain passed away early Sunday morning at Baptist Hospital in Little Rock. Sheriff Swain was elected as the Cleburne County Sheriff November 2014 and took office on January 1st of this year. Sheriff Swain, age 68, retired as an Inspector with the Shelby County, TN Sheriff’s Office in 2002. Following his retirement he and his wife Pat made Cleburne County their home. For the last seven years he has served as Jail Administrator with the Cleburne County Sheriff’s Office and held the rank of Captain. Sheriff Swain is survived by his wife a son and a daughter. A memorial Service will  be held at 1st Baptist Church in Heber Springs, Wednesday, January 28th at 4:00 PM.


Capital Murder Charges Filed in McJester Road Deaths

The photo posted at the time of release was of an individual not involved in any way with this incident. Above is the correct Photo. 

      On April 21st , detectives from the Cleburne County Sheriff’s Office began an investigation into unusual activity in the bank accounts of  61 year-old Gerald Nickelson and 58 year-old Rhonda Nickelson who lived at 5 McJester Road. Family members were concerned about the welfare of the couple and the Sheriff deputies had been unable to locate them. On April 28th information was developed that led the Detectives to an out building on the property at 5 McJester Road where at approximately 6:00 PM the remains believed to be that of Gerald and Rhonda Nickelson (pending positive identification from the Arkansas State Crime Lab), were discovered. After being located and recovered the remains were sent to the Medical Examiner for autopsy. The following morning Sheriff’s Office Detectives along with the Arkansas State Police and personnel from the Arkansas State Crime Lab executed a search warrant at the residence and spent the day processing the crime scene.

      Affidavits were presented to the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office this morning charging 25 year-old Justin Nickelson with two counts of Capital Murder. Justin Nickelson is the son of the victims and also lived at the residence at 5 McJester Road. He is currently in custody in the White County Detention Center on an unrelated charge and will be transported to the Cleburne County Detention in the near future. At this time no bond has been set.


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Meth Seizure in Hopewell

On March 14th 2014, Cleburne County Sheriff's Department Narcotics Officers and Criminal Investigators along with officers with the Little Rock Police Department conducted a joint operation that resulted in the seizure of 2,040 grams (4lbs. 4ozs.) of methamphetamine with an approximate street value of $204,000 at a residence on Firehouse Road in the Hopewell community of Cleburne County.

Cleburne County Narcotics Investigators have completed, and submitted affidavits for the offense of Drug Trafficking (a class Y felony) to the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office for 48 year-old Rodolfo Valdez of Rosebud and 44 year-old Christine Halton of Hopewell. Both Valdez and Halton are currently being held on $200,000 bond.

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Pursuit On Bypass


At approximately 2:30 PM, January 29th Deputies from the Cleburne County Sheriff’s Office responded to a Domestic Disturbance on Pangburn Road. The suspect involved in the incident, twenty-three year-old Jacob Darrel James of Heber Springs, left the scene before deputies arrived. Deputies located James driving towards Heber Springs on Libby Route (Highway 337) and attempted to conduct a traffic stop near the intersection of Libby Route and Highway 25 Bypass. James refused to yield to the emergency vehicles and during the pursuit which followed hit and damaged a county vehicle. James was taken into custody at approximately 2:45 PM on Highway 110 East and is currently being held in the Cleburne County Detention center. There were no injuries during the incident and no damage to property other than the Sheriff’s Office Vehicle.

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13 Plead Guilty in Circuit Court


Today in Cleburne County Circuit Court, 13 Defendants pled guilty to a variety of charges, (Arson, Residential Burglary, and Possession of a Controlled Substance, Possession of Drug Paraphernalia, Furnishing Prohibited Articles, Aggravated Residential Burglary, Kidnapping, and Theft of Property). The combined sentences of the 13 Defendants totaled 100 years in the Arkansas Department of Correction.

There are currently 89 inmates incarcerated at the Cleburne County Jail. Out of the 89 inmates, 20 have been sentenced and are awaiting transfer to the Arkansas Department of Correction, and 5 are parole violators that are awaiting parole revocation hearings.



Quitman Meth Arrest


On Sunday January 12th 2014, Cleburne County Narcotic and Criminal Investigators executed a search warrant at 217 College Street in Quitman. During the execution of the search warrant officer located approximately 8 grams of methamphetamine, numerous items of paraphernalia, and a firearm.

Officers arrested Bobby Defoor at the scene and charged him with Possession of Methamphetamine with Intent to Deliver, Possession of Drug Paraphernalia, Aggravated Assault of Law Enforcement, and Maintaining a Drug Premise. Bobby Defoor was booked into the Cleburne County Jail on a 50,000.00 bond.

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McJester Road Meth Arrest


On Saturday, January 11th, 2014, Cleburne County Narcotic and Criminal Investigators executed a search warrant at 1475 McJester Road near Pangburn. During the execution of the search warrant officers located, and seized approximately 18 grams of methamphetamine with an estimated street value of 1,800.00. Officers also located a large amount of US currency that is believed to be proceeds from drug transactions.

Thirty year-old Amanda Voss of Pangburn was arrested at the scene and charged with Possession of Methamphetamine with Intent to Deliver, Possession of Drug Paraphernalia, Endangering the Welfare of a Minor, Maintaining a Drug Premise, and two misdemeanor counts of Possession of a Controlled Substance. Voss was booked into the Cleburne County Detention Center and is being held on a 50,000.00 bond

Also arrested at the scene were thirty-one year-old John Whitehurst of Searcy and thirty-three year-old Leroy Davis of Pangburn. Davis was arrested on an outstanding misdemeanor warrant issued by the Cleburne County District Court.  Whitehurst was also arrested on an outstanding misdemeanor warrant issued by the Cleburne County District Court and was found to be in possession of methamphetamine. Whitehurst and Davis were both transported to the Cleburne County Detention Center and booked. 

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Search Warrant Meth Arrests


On the 8th day of January 2014, Narcotics Investigators with the Cleburne County Sheriff’s Office obtained a search warrant for 2232 Highway 25B North, which is an apartment located above the North side Laundry Mat.

During the execution of the search warrant Investigators arrested William Alfred Heffington (above left) of Heber Springs and Marcus Anthony Piazza (above right) of Heber Springs for possession of methamphetamine with intent to deliver and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Both subjects were transported and booked into the Cleburne County Detention Center.

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Sexual Assault Reported on Libby Route


On November 29th at approximately 5:30, a twenty one year old Cleburne County woman (while out of her vehicle in the area of Sanders Lane off of Hwy 337) was approached by an unknown white male and sexually assaulted. The victim was placed in the suspect’s vehicle and became disoriented.  The victim was able to escape the suspect’s vehicle (believed to be a 4 door mid-sized car) in an unknown area of Hwy 25 By-Pass on the south side of Heber Springs. If you have any information of witnessed any suspicious or unusual activity on the above date in the area of Hwy 337 or the Hwy 25 By-Pass, please call the Cleburne County Sheriff’s Office at 501-362-8143.   

Libby Route Animal Cruelty Complaint


      Recently there have been a number of calls made to the Sheriff’s Office concerning the condition of a horse on Libby Route. The situation was investigated by the Sheriff’s Office and it was determined that the individuals, who are in possession of the horse, took the animal in on October 10th in an effort to save the horse. Their goal was to feed the mare and get her back into good condition. Prior to October 10th the horse was loose in a pasture with other younger horses and competing for food. Since being taken in it has been provided a diet of oats, grain, and hay and was wormed on the same day the horse was obtained. On November 26th, the horse, which is over twenty-five years old, was examined by a local veterinarian at the request of the Sheriff’s Office. The veterinarian determined that in addition to the horses advanced age it has several molars missing and its incisors are very short. At this point it is very hard for her to eat and digest hay and grass. If the horse is able to gain weight over the next thirty days on a special “Senior Feed” diet there may be a chance to save her. If the mare is not able to gain weight, it was recommended by the veterinarian that she be euthanized.

      The appearance of the horse is disturbing, but after a thorough investigation and conferring with a veterinarian who examined the mare, there is no evidence to support the allegations of abuse or neglect. We believe every reasonable effort is being made to improve the mare’s quality of life.    

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