VAN BUREN (KFSM) -- Early Wednesday (July 18) morning police said a call came in from out-of-state saying someone was being held against their will in Van Buren and that there could possibly be a homicide.
According to a probable cause affidavit from the Crawford County Sheriff's Office, Van Buren police received a tip from a woman whose sister called, saying she had been kidnapped by a couple and brought to Van Buren after her kidnappers killed an elderly couple in Great Bend, Kansas.
Officers responded to the apartment complex where the woman said she was being held and made contact with the woman, as well as with three carnival workers, Rusty Frasier, Michael Fowler Jr. and Kimberly Younger aka Myrna Khan. Police also found a one-ton pickup with a camper shell that was registered to Alfred "Sonny" Carpenter and Pauline Carpenter.
The Carpenters' daughter reported them missing on Monday (July 17) out of Wichita, Kansas, according to the affidavit. Police caught Khan in several lies related to the whereabouts of the Carpenters, so all four people were taken to the police station for questioning, the affidavit said.
During the interviews, Fowler confessed to shooting the couple in Great Bend, Kansas, according to the affidavit. He said Frasier and Khan were with him when he shot and killed the couple. He said they loaded the bodies into the Carpenters' truck and camper and drive to Van Buren. Two days later, the three, along with the kidnap victim and another man, Scott Spencer, drove to a secluded area off Star Road.
Fowler told police they covered the bodies with bedding out of the camper, then piled rocks and limbs on top.
As Van Buren Police continued the interviews, investigators with the Crawford County Sheriff's Office went to check out a spot on Highway 59 north of Natural Dam, where they were told the bodies of a couple were buried.
It was there that deputies found the bodies of Sonny and Pauline Carpenter buried in a shallow grave in a creek, said Crawford County Sheriff Ron Brown. The affidavit said deputies also found a Ruger 9mm gun that belonged to Fowler and which Fowler said he used to shoot and kill the couple.
The sheriff, along with forensic investigators, exhumed the bodies and sent them to the Arkansas State Crime lab for an autopsy.
Fowler, Frasier and Khan were arrested on suspicion of theft, tampering with evidence and abuse of a corpse. The kidnap victim was released.
"We did at one time have four people down here that we were talking to. One of those we determined to be a victim/witness. The other three are being detained on charges," said Johnathan Wear, a detective with the Van Buren Police Department.
Investigators say the three detainees were carnival workers. The Carpenters sold crafts, jewelry, purses and other items at a carnival in Barton County, Kansas, last week. Police believe the carnival is the connection between the detainees and the murdered couple.
The bodies were sent to the Arkansas Crime Lab for an autopsy.
Wear said it appears the Carpenters were killed Saturday (July 14), with Sonny Carpenter being killed outside the couple's RV and Pauline being killed inside.
"After that occurred, they drove here to Van Buren," Wear said. "We believe that they were all connected together through a carnival that was traveling, and at the time they were in Kansas and after that carnival closed, they traveled to Van Buren."
Investigators believe the suspects drove the bodies of the couple 320 miles in the Carpenters' RV to Van Buren, where a relative of one of the carnival workers lives.
Sonny and Pauline Carpenter often traveled to different shows and fairs to sell what Kansas neighbors to the couple described as trinkets.
"They were retired you know? So, they just enjoyed doing it. I guess they'd been doing it for years," said Martin Smith, one of the Carpenter's neighbors back in Kansas.
"Just nice people. Couldn't find nicer people. It's just a shame what happened."
Smith said the couple was supposed to return home on Sunday (July 15) but police believe the couple was killed on Saturday (July 14) and their bodies were buried that Monday (July 16).
Police have not revealed an exact motive at this time but are working with Kansas investigators to learn more.
Kansas investigators are working with Van Buren police to collect evidence and information that will be taken back to Kansas. Since the murder of the couple happened in Great Bend, Kansas, a Kansas prosecutor will be the one to file murder charges.
According to the Crawford County prosecutor the suspects charges in Arkansas will stay as theft, abuse of a corpse, and tampering with evidence.