Crawford County Sheriff Announces Arrest, Motive In Cemetery Death

CRAWFORD COUNTY (KFSM) — The Crawford County sheriff announced an arrest Thursday (Jan. 31) in the homicide of a man found shot in a rural cemetery on Wednesday.

The body of Gabriel Ricardo Quispe, 49, of Fort Smith, was found in Dripping Springs Cemetery off Highway 26 in the Uniontown area about midway between Cedarville and Van Buren on Wednesday (Jan. 30).

Jessica Howard

Deputies arrested Jessica Howard in the homicide of Quispe, Sheriff Ron Brown said. He said Howard confessed to the killing after being questioned by investigators. She is charged with capital murder.

Initially, investigators thought Howard was a victim, possibly of a robbery. But after locating her and talking with her, they decided she was a "person of interest" and eventually arrested her.

"Based on her statement, she shot him, using a semi-automatic handgun," Brown said.

Brown said she was spotted around 3 p.m. Wednesday in Fort Smith and was found to be in possession of Quispe's vehicle. She was found with a man who Brown said was not a person of interest in the case.

According to Brown, Howard contacted Quispe and asked for a ride to the Dripping Springs area with the intent of robbing, shooting and killing him. He said the motive may have been robbery.

Brown said there might also be a child custody issue involved. The pair had a 4 1/2-year-old child together. Quispe had recently obtained custody of the child, Brown said.

"We believe that even though she was willing to give up custody of the child, there was some type of issue with that," he said, adding, "The child is safe."

Brown said Quispe was likely shot at the cemetery and died there, based on the investigation of the scene as well as her statement.

"We believe at this time, she acted alone, based on her statement," Brown said, adding that they are still investigating other leads.

Howard has family in the Dripping Springs area, Brown said.

She'll go before a circuit judge in the morning for arraignment. She's currently being held in the Crawford County Detention Center without bond, Brown said.

Brown said the investigation came together quickly thanks to the work of the Sheriff's Office's Criminal Investigation Division, as well as assistance from the Fort Smith Police and the Arkansas State Police.

Quispe's body has been sent to the state Crime Laboratory for an autopsy, but Brown said it is believed he was shot one time.

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