FAYETTEVILLE (KFSM) — A man convicted in the slaying of a 4-year-old Fayetteville girl is set to get a new sentence following an Arkansas Supreme Court ruling, and the former Fayetteville police officer who was first to arrive on the scene is speaking out about the day he put the murderer in handcuffs.
Ruston Cole remembers arriving first to the scene when he was on patrol back in July 1986, and the first to find Barbie Thompson's body.
"She was lifeless…. and so the thoughts that went through my mind… pretty much horror… at what I was witnessing," Cole said.
"I ran through the woods and there was this.. young man.. laying on the ground and I handcuffed him and he had blood on him… it happened pretty quick."
"She was out to catch butterflies… and I found that baggie next to where her body was," Cole said.
Cole says the day unfolded fast and he the moment he saw Christopher Segerstrom, he knew what he had done.
"I knew right away. There was no doubt in my mind that he was the right person," Cole said.
The fact that Segerstrom was only 15 years old when he sexually assaulted and killed Thompson doesn't change how Cole feels about him.
"Not only is he a murderer.. he murdered innocence in a way I can't even describe… and I hate to remember," Cole said.
Cole says he believes if parole was a possibility for Christopher, he would act again.
"I have no doubt about it, none at all. I would swear to it on the Bible, he is not a good person," said Cole. "The way I look at it he has nothing to contribute, he only has something to take away, and so we've got to take care of our community."
Cole has stayed in contact with Thompson's family over the years and has kept a close eye on her murderer.
He says that he hopes when the re-sentencing comes, people will remember what he and Barbie's family will never forget.
"It will never leave them, not the horror, not the grief, and it hasn't left me," Cole said.
Segerstrom was convicted of capital murder for sexually assaulting and killing Thompson and sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.
But since then, the U.S. Supreme Court and the Arkansas Supreme Court ruled that juveniles couldn’t be sentenced to life without parole.
In April 2017, the State filed a motion for resentencing in Washington County Circuit Court under the Fair Sentencing of Minors Act of 2017 (FSMA), which eliminated life without parole as a sentencing option for minors who commit serious crimes.
The law made several prisoners who had served 30 years eligible for parole.
In May 2017, Judge Mark Linsday sentenced Segerstrom to life in prison with the possibility of parole after thirty years based on FSMA, arguing the law applied retroactively.
Segerstrom's parole was later denied.
In her majority opinion issued Thursday (Feb. 14), Arkansas Supreme Court Justice Karen Baker said the circuit court "erred in applying the FSMA to Segerstrom’s case" and "Segerstrom is entitled to a hearing ... for consideration and sentencing within the discretionary range for a Class Y felony, which is ten to forty years or life."
Barbie's sister Rachel Wilson shared a statement with 5NEWS saying the family is all very upset about the whole situation and didn't think anything like this would happen so soon.
The timeline for the re-sentencing has not been set at this time, but the process will likely be lengthy because of old the case is.