Prostitute’s Story Leads To Arrests In Craigslist Robberies
Melvin Cooper and William Brown
Police have arrested four suspects in the last week after a prostitute came forward and told police she participated in at least one of the armed robberies that originated from online personal ads.
Springdale police have arrested two more men they say robbed people answering classified ads on websites such as Craigslist.
William Brown, 28, of Bentonville, and Melvin Cooper, 29, of Springdale, have been booked into the Washington County Detention Center and face aggravated robbery charges in incidents on Crutcher Street in Springdale, said Lt. Derek Hudson with Springdale Police Department.
Brown was arrested Dec. 10; Cooper was arrested Dec. 7, Hudson said.
Meanwhile, two other men were arrested earlier this month after three people were robbed at gunpoint after answering Craigslist personal ads, police said.
Timothy Counts, 24, and Richard Rodriguez, 22, were arrested Dec. 5 on suspicion of aggravated robbery, theft by receiving, theft of property, promoting prostitution, breaking and entering and possession of drug paraphernalia.
Police said at least two of the suspects, Counts and Rodriguez, were involved in all three of the November armed robberies in Springdale.
Police said Cooper, Brown, Counts and Rodriguez robbed a naked man at gunpoint at a home on Crutcher Street.
Police said a woman met with the victim Nov. 14 at the home with the implication that they were going to have sex. The victim met the woman on Backpage.com, a sex-seeking website.
After the victim stripped down, the three of the men jumped out of a closet and robbed the victim of $1,500 in cash, according to a preliminary report from the Washington County Prosecutor’s Office.
Cooper was driving a vehicle that the three men fled to after the crime, police said.
Officers later arrested Cooper in the parking lot of the Brookhaven Apartment Complex in Springdale. Cooper admitted to police that he drove the other three suspects to Crutcher Street while knowing they intended to rob the victim, according to the preliminary report.
A woman who said she was a prostitute working for Counts approached police Dec. 6 and told them about the robbery, the report states. She said she did not want to go along with the robbery, but that Counts threatened to tell her husband what she was doing if she did not take part.
The woman told police the suspects targeting the Hispanic male victim because they believed him to be an illegal immigrant and thought he may be carrying large sums of cash. An illegal immigrant may also be less likely to report a crime, the woman said.
Two of the armed robberies occurred one week away from each other in late November at the same location, Springdale’s FoxFire Apartments.
Police tracked the number used for the Craigslist personal ad exchanges to an apartment at the complex. Detectives searched the apartment and found items belonging to the victims.
One victim, who was hospitalized Nov. 28 following the robbery, arranged to meet a girl he encountered on Craigslist at the apartment complex. He pulled into the parking lot at about 3:30 a.m., when three males covering their faces with bandanas appeared and pulled him out of his car, according to the Springdale Police Department.
One of the suspects struck the victim in the face with a silver handgun. The suspects then dragged the victim behind a nearby building and took his cell phone, wallet and keys. They also removed his socks and shoes, police said.
The victim ran barefoot and bloody to the Heritage Inn on Sunset Avenue and called police. He was later transported to Washington Regional Medical Center in Fayetteville, where he was treated for minor injuries and released, Hudson said.
The victim could not give extensive information to police about the suspects, other than that they were wearing blue and white bandanas.
A week earlier at the same location—just north of Robinson Avenue on West End Street—another man told police he was robbed and gunpoint, losing his iPhone and $1,000 in cash.
The man told police he had driven from his home in Fort Smith to the Foxfire Apartments to meet a friend at 3 a.m. When he approached the West End and Robinson intersection, two black cars were stopped in front of him. A suspect in a black hooded sweatshirt exited one of the cars, approached the man, and pointed a black handgun at him, the victim told police.
Police started monitoring the area more closely and looked for connections between the robberies.