Charges were filed this week against a Bella Vista man accused of threatening the life of a Benton County judge.
The Benton County Prosecutor’s Office filed charges on three criminal counts against Ricky Lee Witcher, 54. Those charges include one count of threatening a judicial officer, a Class-B felony punishable by five to 20 years in prison, and two counts of terroristic threatening, a Class-D felony that carries a penalty of zero to six years in prison, said Van Stone, Benton County prosecutor.
Witcher was arrested Jan. 10, and remains in the Benton County Jail on $253,500 bond, according to the Benton County Sheriff’s Office. His next court date is scheduled for Feb. 18.
A process server was serving court papers to Witcher earlier this month when the suspect became angry and started pacing around outside his place of work at Kozy Heat in Bella Vista, according to a probable cause report filed in Benton County Circuit Court.
The process server was serving the court order from Circuit Judge John Scott. Witcher then started insulting Scott before saying he would like to “put a bullet in his (expletive) head and kill the (expletive),” according to the probable cause affidavit.
Witcher then told the process server he would not go back to Scott’s courtroom and that Scott and two others in Benton County “needed to be killed,” the affidavit states. The two others are identified in the affidavit as Greg Clark and Seth Becket. Clark is a criminal lawyer in Benton County. Seth Bickett, spelled differently than “Becket”, is an attorney in Bentonville, according to public directories.
Deputy Keshia Guyll of the Benton County Sheriff’s Office said Witcher’s words showed intent of following through with his threats of killing the judge and others.
“This was very direct, and it was very directed at particular people,” Guyll said. “He explained how he was going to do it and what he wanted to do.”
The suspect was later located and arrested by Benton County Sheriff’s deputies, according to the affidavit.
The judge told 5NEWS he has handled Witcher’s divorce and custody cases in his courtroom.
“I felt like it was an emotional reaction to my orders,” Scott said, adding that security consultants have advised him on how to protect himself. “There’s things we do, that my family does and my office staff does to improve our safety. We listen to experts and take their advice.”