Man Pleads Not Guilty to Murdering Wife, Baby

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James Saylor Herring, 34, pleaded not guilty to two counts of capital murder Thursday for the deaths of his wife and newborn baby, according to Sebastian County Prosecutor Dan Shue.

Charges were filed at 9 a.m. Thursday. Herring has been assigned a public defender. Shue says a judge denied bond.

Herring is being held in the Sebastian County Detention Center. Shue says Herring could be facing the death penalty.

"Capital murder is usually considered murder plus," said Shue, "There’s some circumstances alleged to have occurred that makes the offense one that the death penalty might be possible.”

She says the Arkansas Constitution allows him to ask for the death penalty in this case.

"And to me, that involves visiting with the victim’s families, reviewing any and all police report that we have, we have a number of subpoenas and search warrants still waiting for returns,” said Shue.

Shue is expected to reach a decision about the death penalty within the next few weeks.

Fort Smith police say Herring stabbed his wife 32-year-old Celestia Marie Duffin Tuesday causing her to crash her vehicle into a telephone pole near the Courts Building on B Street. She stumbled into the nearby police department for help.

”The Fetal Protection Act was passed by the Arkansas Legislature in 1999 and basically defined 'person' to include 12 weeks of gestation or more,” said Shue.

Duffin, who was about 27 weeks pregnant, died at the hospital due to complications from a stab wound near her heart.

Doctors successfully delivered Duffin’s baby, Keagan Wayne Herring, but Sgt. Daniel Grubbs says the boy died from complications before he could be flown to Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock.

Police say Herring stayed at the accident scene and appeared to be in shock.

Herring told investigators he was “unhappy with where their marriage was at," Sgt. Grubbs said. The couple had only been married for about a week.